Thursday, May 17, 2007

Restaurant review - Memphis Blues

My brother loves BBQ ribs, and he vouches for Memphis Blues Barbeque House all the time. I am not really a rib kind of guy so I always thought I would never set foot in this place. Well, I did and I am glad I did. They have BBQ chicken breast, sandwiches, burgers, etc. So the place really is awesome and caters to every taste. They have two locations that I know of, one on Commercial Drive (for East Vaners) and one on Broadway between Hemlock and Granville (for those Fairview Slopes-South Granvillers).

Restaurant review - The Cat's Meow

I love Granville Island. I love the scenery, I love the fact that it used to be an industrial zone and now it is very residential/a tad commercial. It houses the Granville Market, and the Backstage Lounge, the Dockside and a few other restaurants. I always enjoyed going down to Granville Island because, for a few hours, I just got lost in the scenic beauty.

For a while there, my group of close friends and I used to go to the Cat's Meow for brunch all the time. It was sort of "our joint". The first few times we went there, the service was excellent. The food was awesome. One time, my scrambled eggs got cold because I was too chatty and the waitress said "oh, don't worry - we'll just throw them and make you new ones". You can bet our tip was good, because I personally considered that the best service I had received anywhere in Vancouver.

Then the past few times the service went not so bad to very bad to really bad to I-really-don't-want-to-ever-set-my-foot-in-this-place-ever-again. So now I don't ever come back to The Cat's Meow. Don't get me wrong, they do have a place in the brunch and dinner scene, particularly in False Creek. But I just have been a witness to a deteriorating service.

Would I give The Cat's Meow a chance again? Probably this fall. Not any time soon, but I am sure in the fall I will. Now, if you think I am being unfair to TCM, read these reviews and tell me again after you've done the reading. Hopefully The Cat's Meow management will wake up and say "hey let's make this place as good as it used to be". Be prepared to shell some bucks if you go there, the brunch ain't cheap.

Restaurant review - Aurora Bistro

I would say that Aurora Bistro is somewhat pretentious for the area in which it is located, but there must be some people to whom they cater. They certainly did not cater to me! I have tried to find nice reviews of Aurora Bistro and I have found very few. Truth be told, I didn't like it the first time I went. It didn't help that I went with someone who really didn't value the effort ($$$) I was making.

The place is expensive, and I would honestly not go back again. Their drinks are overpriced and the portions are way too small. But then again, some people may like it. To be fair to them, I dug a few positive reviews of Aurora Bistro online which can be found here.

It is located on Main Street, close to the Mount Pleasant Clock, so the location is actually quite hipster-ish :) Judge for yourself and let me know in the comments section.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hipster-oriented places in Vancouver

A few days ago, I happened to walk around the Main and Alexander area (close to Historic Gastown) in Vancouver. Because of my particular sensitivities to poverty and people's pain, I try not to hang near the Main and Hastings area, and this particular street (Alexander) is cutting it a little bit too close. But I wanted to see if I could handle it. Also, I wanted to see if I could find a restaurant that I used to go to before, the Alibi Room. I had brunch there with my brother and L YEARS ago, so I didn't know if it was there. Apparently, it's still there.

It's supposed to cater to the hipster community. Now, the only problem is that I have accumulated a list of places that are supposed to be 'hip' or 'hipster-oriented' and I don't have anyone to go with! My good friend H is one of those few people who can be as comfortable having dinner at Lumiere (super-posh) or eat tacos at the corner's taqueria. He does understand hipsters (even though he is not one of them). But he's still away on vacation... come back soon!!! There are tonnes of places we should try!!! [No, I'm just kidding. I know that he needs this time off]

So, next on the list are: Lucy Mae Brown (I think it's on Richards and almost Nelson), the Alibi Room (Alexander and Main) and Section 3 (in Yaletown). A couple of art galleries: Little Mountain Studios (East 26th Ave and Main) and Blim (East 17th Ave and Main) We'll see how soon we get there :)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Restaurant review - La Bretagne The Original Creperie Ltd.

I have been craving crepes for a long while and thus I had been wanting to try this little place in the vicinity of Robson Street. Now, I rarely go downtown Vancouver. Furthermore, I rarely go to the Robson area (I am not much of a shop-a-holic, unless there is a need for shoe-shopping, as I did more recently with A but also with H).

So I had heard of this French creperie place, La Bretagne, which was actually located on Jervis rather than on Robson itself. For someone like me who is interested in things like changes in zoning and land use, this sounded like a perfect opportunity to see a restaurant located where it's really mostly residential. So off we went (A and I) to have a crepe at La Bretagne.

Located at 795 Jervis, just off Robson, La Bretagne is a little beautiful crepe place that will certainly be good for your palate. It's not really cheap, but it's not overly expensive. Two crepes will be about $ 18.00 with tip and all, depending on how fancy you go. I had a banana and Belgian chocolate crepe to-die-for. A had a peach and vanilla ice cream crepe and we were both way too full on our way back.

I would recommend La Bretagne if you don't want to leave the downtown Vancouver area. If you do, I'd recommend Trixi's or if you want to go a bit more 'chain'-like, I'd strongly endorse Cafe Crepe. I am not the only one who loved La Bretagne, here is another review ... and I would agree with the reviewer!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mother's Day on Thursday May 10th

Although I know that in Canada the celebration is on Sunday May 13th, the tradition back home takes place on May 10th. Therefore, I will be calling my Mom on that specific day. This will be the 9th year in the past 11 years that I will not be spending Mother's Day with her, which is quite regrettable. These are the days (Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.) when I would really love it if Scotty could really beam us up (if you aren't a Star Trek fan, you probably didn't understand my line... sorry, yes I am a geek).

I feel extremely privileged to have the mother that I do. Mom set an example for me and my brothers. She has worked really hard all her life (she still does), but always made time for us. Mom is one of those rare specimens who can make friends with just about everyone. Her passion for life is only surpassed by her love of her children. The ethics and values that Dad and her instilled in me make me proud of being who I am.

I am also lucky because she loves travelling, so usually she comes and visits me for a month during the summer time. And I think I've shared this comment with each and every one of my good friends: just knowing that my Mom is physically there, present, just seeing her watch TV while I am doing something else, or watering the plants, or simply cooking, makes me extremely happy.

These days people seem to have a hard time being happy, or finding ways to be happy. In my case, one of the things that makes me extremely happy is spending time with my mother. And I am very glad that I still have those opportunities, even if only a few times a year. Most of my friends are also very close to their parents, so we often share stories of parents who live in distant countries and how hard it is to know that they aren't physically close to us. But I am very grateful because I have both my parents.

And to my mother (who rarely reads my blog but I know she's going to stumble upon this particular posting) I could say many things, but I think the best one I can say is Thank you for being.

Movie review - Spiderman 3

Fair warning: I have enabled the moderation of comments for this specific posting.

Well, as a superhero fan, I could hardly wait to see Spiderman 3. I wouldn't want to either spoil you or bother you with details, but the movie is packed with action sequences, some romance, some broken relationships (friendships and almost-engagements) and an ending that may seem underwhelming to some, but if it had to be that way, I am glad Sam Raimi was the director. He brought the movie to a close with relative ease, and left us craving more Spidey movies.

I have to say that I've read several reviews of the movie, with a varied spectrum of responses. Some people have hailed it as brilliant and others seem to hate it. There is one actor that really stands out throughout the movie: James Franco. He manages to look broody and vengeful at the beginning, then sweet, warm and caring later and then hateful and insane (and that's as much as I'm going to tell you because the movie is very well worth watching). I had never seen Franco display this broad range of emotions and he made some of the movie's best scenes.

If you are a hard-core Spidey fan, beware: there are some substantive changes to the Spiderman storyline that you should forgive. But the movie is really easy to watch.

Restaurant review - Paesano's (Richmond)

As an adopted Vancouverite (and one who travels on transit), I rarely dine out or have brunch outside of my local domain [Vancouver] (except when my brother visits and REALLY wants to go for brunch at International House of Pancakes, aka IHOP -- since IHOP is really out of the way for me I do this only once in a blue moon).

At any rate, I was out and about in Richmond with a friend and we ended up going for dinner to Paesano's. I wasn't really looking forward to this because I am not as adventurous as I used to be. Normally, I'd do dinner anywhere. But when I am tired, exhausted and all I want to do is eat comfort food with a good friend, the last thing on my mind is to try a new restaurant.

Honestly, I am glad we did. Paesano's is truly a good Italian restaurant. The food selection is, at times, overwhelming. We could have ordered basically, well, anything! [And since I am an Italian food kind of guy, I pride myself in having good taste for Italian restaurants]. The waitress was super sweet and friendly and they spoiled us rotten. The food wasn't overpriced and I only wish I had been hungrier.

If you drive (or even if you commute by bus, since this restaurant is reachable on the 98 B-Line to Richmond Centre), I'd highly recommend this restaurant. It's tucked away in a small mall, but worth the visit.

Restaurant review - The Main

Most of the time, I am lucky when I try to make plans with friends for brunch, but once in a blue moon, things will go awry. L and I wanted to go to Crave on Main (which is definitely one of the most reliable brunch places you'll ever get) but they were closed on that day (this has happened to me twice already with the Crave folks, and with two different friends, so I'm going to tell them at some point).

At any rate, we strolled the streets trying to find a brunch spot that was reliable, and given my reticence to try dim sum, we settled for The Main. As someone who lives in the neighborhood, I am ashamed to admit that I hadn't been to The Main for brunch. Located south of Main and King Edward, I had visited this place for dinner and once for drinks. The Main is a tradition for artsy folks, and at night, they have live music most days, and the food is Greek and Mediterranean.

We went in and crossed our fingers hoping that the food was good. Our prayers were answered. I went with a modified version of 'Huevos Rancheros' (my mother would probably strangle me for eating this but...) and my friend asked for an omelette. I think that the food is really good and the only downside for me was that I couldn't finish it all. The decor is very woody and the atmosphere is cozy. The food is inexpensive (some reviewers call it comfort food). And yes, on their brunch menu, they do have tzatziki!

I'll have to give The Main another try for drinks and live music, but I'll have to organize a night out with friends for that.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Beautiful Vancouver (when it's warm)

For the past few weeks, even though we're well into spring, the weather in Vancouver has been, at the very least, wonky. But today is beautiful. The sun is shining, it's super warm outside (you are not going to believe that it's 20 oC today!). Yesterday, in comparison, it was wet, rainy and cold. This city is unbelievably beautiful, but the weather is really unpredictable. Talk about climate change!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Anti-procrastination remedy: Breaking tasks into smaller bits

Any self-respecting guru on time management, project management and "achieve success in 24 hours" will tell you that the key to getting something done is to break it down into smaller tasks. This is particularly important when you are a chronic procrastinator. We have all procrastinated. Some people ask me if I use my blog to procrastinate (I don't, I use it to take a short break in between tasks).

Today I've gotten a lot accomplished by breaking down edits and revisions to a paper into smaller bits, doing errands (such as mailing rent checks, shopping for groceries, organizing my apartment a bit). This has resulted in increased productivity. I am doing much more and stay focused more instead of dreading the editing process.

Here are a couple of links that might be useful. One is to a very young blogger (Scott Young, 18 yrs old) and the other one is to Carleton University's Procrastination Research Group webpage. Yes, there are people who actually study procrastination!

Restaurant review - Kishu Mountain

Located in one of the weirdest corners I've ever seen in Vancouver (Broadway and Willow), this little Japanese restaurant offers some of this city's best sushi at the lowest prices you can get. I went with C, B, N and J (all good ol' friends from a few years back, when I lived in a residential college whose name I'd rather not cite).

I'll mention about the food first and then anecdotes from the evening. The sushi is excellent, the udon is really tasty (we ordered chicken and beef udon), and the final bill was amazingly low. Kishu is not only a nice place and has great food, but is also really inexpensive. They have Happy Hour after 7:00pm, with 40% discount on selected items. We ordered as much food as we wanted to and ended up full.

Now, in case you didn't know, Vancouver is one of those cities where the owners and staff of a Mexican restaurant will in fact be from Hong Kong. Yes, I am not kidding. I could attest to that when I spoke Japanese to the waitress. She could not understand a word of what I said. *sigh*

This particular group of friends is multicultural albeit with a strong Asian flavor. C is as Canadian as he can get, but speaks fluent Mandarin (he better as his wife is from Taiwan!). J, though American, speaks fluent Japanese given that he just came back from his Monbugakuksho two-year stint in Japan, N is Japanese and B is Taiwanese. I didn't really need to chat with the waitress since both N and J speak Japanese, but at times the conversation really went all over the place. We ended up mixing up languages all night long and had such a fun time I am still smiling. As C would say, "there was much rejoicing"

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Learning to ask for help

I had a minor procedure done to my eye recently, and thus had the eyeballs anesthetized. If you ever have had this type of medical procedure done to you, you'll know that you SHOULD have someone accompany you because after the procedure you're basically blind (technically blind, at least). So, I should have asked for help.

I have been scolded by just about every single one of my friends, who said "why didn't you call me - I would've gone with you to the hospital!". And I know I should have. I just have never learned to ask for help when I need it. But the feeling I had after the procedure made me realize that I really should learn to ask for help. It was awful. I really was almost praying that I wasn't going to get run over by a car.

And I didn't, I am here safe and sound. But I should have been careful and phone a friend to have him/her take me home after the procedure. Next time, I promise I will.

Eating out and the construction of Canada Line on Cambie

If you've known me well enough, you'll know that I am all for promoting local business. I had a long conversation with S, B and H while my brother was in town (I won't give out details of the chat, but it was a really fun drive with them on the way uphill to Point Grey). But the thing is, since I am a Vancouverite now, I want local businesses to succeed.

Thus, every time I have a chance, I try to guide people to my blog where I've reviewed several places located along the Canada Line construction. It really makes me sad to read that many businesses have closed down. I won't enter the political debate because that's outside the realm of my blog (and although I have an opinion, I think it's best if I keep myself out of this discussion). But at any rate, I am keen to promote businesses along Cambie because I know that lack of customers is perhaps one of the factors that has been driving businesses to shut down operations.

So, I'll make a quick overview of the places I've been to (or suggest a few places that you can go to) that are directly on Cambie St.

Tomato (near 17th and Cambie)
Trixi's Crepes (the best crepes in town, near 17th and Cambie)
Thai Away Home (great Thai food, near 17th and Cambie)
FigMint (I wasn't pleased with their food but I've read other reviews and they seem to like it, so why not - check it out for yourselves, near 12th and Cambie)

If you have any other recommendations, I'd really welcome them. I have heard from the owners of several establishments along Cambie that they really need their business to pick up, so I'm doing my part to help.