Monday, July 18, 2011 2

8:44 a.m. PST. Vancouver, Canada

As I said in a previous post, I came up to Canada to meet with a buddy of mine.  I told him I was going to come up and help him out in anyway I could and at the very least offer some support.  He is competing in the WACS Global Jr. Chef's competition, representing the United States in the "Regional," version of this competition.  It is battle of the "America's."  Today is a prep day, and before I throw on my whites and head into the kitchen, I am going to need breakfast and an IV of coffee.

Luckily, we are told that the best coffee joint is just across the street from the hotel.  Let me introduce you to I have quickly noticed that Vancouver THRIVES on coffee.  No joke, every corner has a coffee shop, and they are all local!  Want Starbucks, and I don't know why, not going to find them here.  Hotel lobbies and posh locations...maybe.  Back to Caffe Artigiano.   A glance over at the "specials," board; smoked salmon bagels...sold, and a quick suggestion from my teenage Asian, sporting two 3/4 sleeves, chucks, and black framed glasses (she knows her coffee!) and a large French Press of Organic Ethiopian Blend coffee it is.

Now this is Breakfast.  A poppy seed bagel, split in half, toasted and topped with; cream cheese, smoked salmon, shaved fennel, shaved red onion, capers, and olive oil.  The lemon rounds everything out and cuts through the richness of the cream cheese, the smoke of the salmon, and heightens the fennel, red onion, and caper.  Perfectly balanced and the best breakfast I have had in a long time. I am telling you, simplicity is where it is at! 

Now that is service!  Your press on a platter with all the accouterments; Sugar; raw, synthetic, and cancerous...all there, cream, and the glass you see is ice water, to cool your coffee down if you find it too hot, but don't you dare.

Need a refill? The "due line," lets you know that you are "due," for another

Food, coffee, awake.  Ok, so I also got a chance to share this trip with a mentor of mine.  A Chef that I admire, an individual I look up culinary father.  He was there as part of the judging committee  for this particular competition, and he popped into the kitchen where we were prepping baring gifts.  "Brian! Daniel! I hold in my hand...THE best cheese...IN THE WORLD!" Chef throws me a bag and says; "Here is your mystery basket, let's eat."  "Yes Chef!"  Here is what I put together.

In the bag I was provided with; The best cheese in the world, Le Cendrillon,  Land Jaeger, Saucisse Amore (a style of summer sausage,) and kornspitz. Just screams sandwiches to me.  Little butter, some fresh cracked black pepper and done.  I get a thumbs up from all the Chefs in the kitchen and continue to help prep.  

The Canucks are ready to play game 5 and they have home team advantage here.  The streets are quiet, dead silent, and all the hot restaurants downtown are empty.  We decide to hit up two Japanese restaurants on our "must eat," list.  First up...GyOZa kINg. 

Ohitashi: Spinach with "special," soy sauce.  Bonito flake on top.   The spinach was blanch and shocked.  It was served cold; crisp, clean, and full on spinach flavor.  The "special" soy, I figured it was a smoked soy.  So perfect! They did not put the bonito on top, but it was in there and gave it this pleasing fish flavor.  What a great starter.

Maguro zanmai: Fresh albacore tuna, 3 ways.  Far left: Seared albacore with nori.  Top: Albacore sashimi.  Bottom: Albacore yukke (chopped.)  So clean.  What was amazing, was it was the same fish with little to no condiments, and three extremely different flavors.  Astounding what just changing the preparation of a dish does to the outcome.  My personal favorite was the yukke; taste was sweet, had the best texture, and left your pallet clean.

Ebimayo: Fresh tiger prawns with "special," mayo.  What can I say?  Perfectly fried shrimp in a tempura batter and "yum yum" sauce.  

Salmon, Avocado yukke: Chopped salmon and avocado with spicy sweet sauce, quail egg.  Yes, please!  Served with sheets of nori to entice  you to create your own hand roll.  Just take a chop stick, stir in the yolk, and fold in the sauce.  "Roll one up homie." At first I thought it would be uber rich and fatty.  Just think...yolk, salmon, and avocado...fat, fat, and fat.  The sauce took care of it all.  The sweet toned down the salmon while upping the avocado flavor.  The spicy covered up the richness of the yolk, and then there was the salty-acidic undertones that rounded it all out.  Completely dish please.

Karubi:  Beef short ribs.  Delicious, but I think the Koreans do it better ;)

Ebinira Gyoza: prawn, pork, chives.  Can't go to a place called "Gyoza King," and not try the Gyoza.  I now know why they are called gyoza KING!  Best dumpling I have EVER had.  Dough was perfect, filling was on point, and sauce...not even needed.  

Takoyaki:  Deep-fried octopus balls.  Topped with a healthy portion of bonito flakes and Japanese mayo.  The "balls," were cakey like hush puppies, octopus was tender, and the flavor was overall sweet.  It was the bonito flakes that made this dish.  It added the much needed salt component.  As for the Japanese mayo...always welcome. 

Nasu den: Deep-fried Japanese eggplant topped with yuzu sauce.  Skewered, fried, brush with yuzu "yakitori" style sauce, then grilled.  Sweet, salt, smoke, mmm.  I loved the texture of this particular preparation of eggplant.  The interior was creamy like a custard  and if you think about it, looks like creme brulee wrapped in purple skin.  

Gyu tan: Beef tongue skewers.! Beef flavor X 10 and, never thought that you could get such a dense muscle so tender.  Who ever was in the back cooking, defiantly knew what they were doing.  Selective cutting, brilliant marinating, and precision cooking.  "Give my complements to the Chef."

Ton toro:  Marinated pork with mustard mayo.  Was a great piece of pork.  We were supposed to get pork cheek, but after all we ate, we will that one slide.  

We finish our beers, "Arigatou," to all the staff, and we head up the street.  We take a quick peek in a market to check on the game...Canucks are up.  Sweet, now that we have appetizers out of the way, lets eat!  Dinner tonight provided by our new friends over at GUU.

The restaurant offers up a static menu, but what I loved about this place was the piece of notebook paper tapped to the door outside with the daily specials.  

Kakuni:  Stewed pork belly, daikon, and poached egg.  Served with steam bun.  Two words; PORK BELLY.  You ever eat a dish where as soon as you take your first bite, your eyes roll back into your head?  This was one of those dishes.  

There was a technique to eating this bowl of love.  First you find the poached egg in the bottom of the bowl and pop the yolk.  Give that time to spread around in the broth.  Next, you cut off a piece of belly with your chop sticks (yes! cut with your chop sticks...that tender.)  Then you take a pinch of radish, combine it with your belly, dip it in your broth, swipe it across that smear of mustard on the side of the bowl, and enjoy.  ::this is where your eyes roll::  As for the steamed bun; after you complete all your belly, throw the whole thing in the broth push the bowl to the side and come back to it me.

Tako:  Fresh, grilled, octopus:  Probably the best octopus dish I have had in my life.  I have been cooking professionally for years and have yet to get octopus as tender as this one.  The taste was so clean, perfectly marinated, and charred to perfection.  The sauce, the most garlicy aioli that you have ever had, but it the best way you could imagine.

Roasted Duck Ramen:  Perfectly cooked roasted duck, radish, charred spring onions, nori, and ramen. 

I am so used to "non functional" garnishes when eating out, that when I saw the nori I did not really give it a second thought.  You know what?  It really added an element to the broth that was something special.  Bowls of noodles like this, is what I dream of at night.

Ochazuke: Rice with dashi broth, with "todays," topping.  And today would be Wagyu so pleasantly nice.  Presented table side with scallions, seaweed, and egg.  Could eat this all day long.

Kakimayo:  Baked oyster with spicy cod roe, mayo creamy sauce, cheese baked on top.  My new favorite "cooked," oyster preparation.  The description they gave does not do it any justice.  They cut the humongous oysters in three pieces, folded it into some Japanese mayo with small diced potatoes, then roe, and I would imagine a little egg.  Topped with cheese and baked until bubbly and delicious, perfectly cooking the oysters in the process. 

Tofu & Kimchi Oden: Japanese Hot Pot; the video explains it all.

Oh it is, and before you that steamed bun you have soaking in the pork belly broth.  You're welcome.

So just in case you do not follow hockey and you were wondering how the Canucks did...

1 comment:

  1. Wow. There are so many droolworthy photos in this post that I don't even know where to start! I am incredibly envious of your experiences.

    I was originally going to comment on how a bagel with lox is my absolutely FAVORITE breakfast, but then I got distracted by salmon and avocado yukke, and then the japanese eggplant, and then rice with wagyu beef, and the oysters...okay, how about everything? :)