Roland’s Vancouver Restaurant Compendium

August 25, 2012 at 12:09 (Beer, Food)

This compendium is the product of nearly three years of assiduous dining out while living in Vancouver, BC. Yes, I have personally been to every single one I listed, and more besides; only the ones I recommend make the cut. Many restaurants aren’t on here because I never got around to trying them (good examples would be Twisted Fork Bistro, or Bitter). You might also notice a few very well-known Vancouver hot-spots are absent because I think they’re not all they are cracked up to be and better alternatives exist (which is not to say that, e.g., Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe is a bad place, just that it gets more hype than it deserves). The listing inevitably betrays some of my own position and biases: the geographical point of departure is UBC, the dietary assumptions are highly meat-centric (but almost no worthwhile Vancouver establishment lacks adequate vegetarian options), the alcohols of choice are overwhelmingly beer and whiskey, some culinary styles that I am generally not as excited about are underrepresented (sorry pizza, sorry Thai food), while others are overrepresented (I hope you like poutine), and I mostly left out places where you can only snack as opposed to have a meal (with the obvious exception of the section on coffee shops; anyhow, sorry, gelaterias and bubble tea houses). Urbanspoon links are included for location and other details, but don’t get too caught up reading the reviews. I encourage you to save, use, and share the list, and give me feedback! Read the rest of this entry »

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Beer Review: Piraat 9

April 2, 2011 at 20:26 (Beer)

A blonde strong pale ale, Piraat 9 is maybe one of the more familiar fancy Belgian ales.  And the label, of course, depicts a brigantine worthy of Captain Hook himself!

Its colour is a perfect yellowish gold, light and sunny. It formed two fingers’ widths of thick, milky white head in the glass.

The scent is crisp, and refreshing, with the hops readily detectable and an uncomplicated bready, biscuit-like smell too. You can even catch a hint of the aroma that one might expect from a wheat beer, banana and clove and such.

Tasting the beer really put a smile on my face, as there are several things going on at once here. It probably isn’t very informative to say that Piraat’s flavour profile is equal parts Belgian trippel, American IPA, and hefeweizen, but there you go. It’s funny – my preference for Belgian beers grew out of a desire for brews that refused to surrender all the limelight to the hops, and now here is a Belgian ale making me appreciate the lovely balancing work that hops can do. The beer greets the tongue with just a whisper of the candy-sugar sweetness familiar from a good trippel, but before you can even really think of it as tasting sweet, a very refreshing and simple bitterness rises up to balance it out. Quick on its heels is that quintessentially beery taste, with just the right amount of yeastiness and acidity. I am continually surprised, on each sip, that this beer wasn’t  brewed with any wheat, because the summery notes are impossible to miss. Piraat hides its 9% alcohol level quite well, its carbonation is almost champagne-like, and its after-taste strikes the right balance between being pleasant and encouraging you to take another sip so you can get back to that initial set of flavours. For these reasons, it is easy to drink lots of. I think it would pair really nicely with a lot of foods, too … I want to take it to a restaurant!

I’ve been pretty complimentary about this beer, but I suppose if I had to be critical, I would say that while Piraat 9 is pleasant and clearly crafted with true expertise, it does not do anything show-stopping; this brew plays it safe and doesn’t go out on any real ambitious limbs. As a result, the experience is absolutely solid and enjoyable, but no single part of it blows my socks clear off my feet. That is hardly something to hold against a beer, much less one so well-made as Piraat, but it does mean that my search for concoctions on the level of the previously reviewed Rochefort continues. Enough nitpicking, though. The bottom line is that this is an A-minus beer at worst, and I cannot imagine anyone finding it disagreeable or even forgettable.

Interestingly, according to BeerAdvocate, this is from the same brewery – Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. – that also makes Augustijn, Bornem, Breugel, and Gulden Draak. Okay, good, now I know where I need to make a beeline to when I finally visit Belgium.

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Beer Review: Trappistes Rochefort 10

February 12, 2011 at 18:51 (Beer)

330ml bottle, poured into a chalice glass. The colour is of root beer, right down to the nice brownish-white head, which is just pretty to look at as it settles from half-a-finger’s worth to just a thin layer.

This beer is a joy for the nose. There’s banana, apple, burnt sugar, biscuit, cherry, bready yeast, and an understated hoppiness, and that’s just for starters. It’s so lovely I could be happy sitting here and not even drinking it.

Dear sweet gods of brewing, the taste is unbelievable! The burnt sugar flavours come out much stronger on the tongue, and there’s a pleasant note of something between caramel and cocoa to accompany it. And yet it’s not too sweet – clearly the bottle-conditioning yeasties have seen to that, as there’s a solid bready backbone that rises up right away to balance things out. The fruity ester-y elements are still there, but playing a supporting role, though that lovely banana-going-on-bubblegum taste lingers nicely. There’s a lively, almost spicy phenolic twist as the taste experience resolves. The hoppiness is barely perceptible, which is just fine by me; this beer doesn’t have an aftertaste so much as a warm afterglow. The carbonation keeps the slightly-heavier-than-your-average-beer mouthfeel in check, and the 11.3% (!!!) ABV is never intrusive or even all that noticeable.

There’s a part of me that wants to quaff this incessantly until I’ve finished the entire bottle, but it’s so good that it’s worth waiting a minute in between sips lest your taste buds just get overwhelmed by the beautiful complexity and start sending extensively abridged reports to your brain. I think that means it scores well for drinkability.

This is one of the most impressive beers I have ever come across. It’s like Chimay Blue on steroids. If you see this for sale anywhere, I urge you to drop what you are doing and purchase it. You will thank me later. Effusively.

Alright, I’ve written enough. Me and my half-a-remaining-bottle of Trappistes Rochefort 10 need some time to bond.

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Beer Review: Tullibardine 1488 Premium Whisky Beer

February 9, 2011 at 22:14 (Beer)

330mL bottle, poured into a Chimay chalice. Light turmeric in colour, with a fine, mellow, pearl-white head that resolves into a delicate thin layer. Impressive carbonation.

Smell is equal parts honey, oak, and … well, beer. There’s a nice sweetness to the scent that’s definitely evocative of a highland or speyside whiskey. You can catch a whiff of the barrel it was aged in, too. The hops are somewhere in the background, being quiet.

The immediate taste, surprisingly, is not sweet; a combination of the breadier malt flavours, the yeastiness, and the carbonation rushes to the fore. After that it unfolds really nicely. The oak shows up quickly, and it’s pleasant, not too strong. Then the honeyed whiskey sweetness blooms out of that, followed immediately by an understated hop bitterness that is reminiscent of your standard lager but also … peaty? Maybe that’s just me free-associating from all the other whiskey cues. The aftertaste is warm, and again equal parts honey, oak, and hops. Though the carbonation looked intimidating, it turns out to be just lively enough on the tongue. The ABV of 7% is hard to detect except for a ghost of boozy warmth in the aftertaste.

This is a pretty drinkable beer, though the oak and pilsener-like flavours do start to wear out their welcome a little bit over time. Can’t really fault it for that, though, that’s just how the style is. Definite bonus points for capturing some of the nice qualities of good scotch in a beer. Even if I likely won’t find myself seeking out Scottish beers any more than I have previously (i.e. hardly ever), I’m glad that I tried this.

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