Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria

A wood-burning pizza oven and house-made pasta are the two things you should definitely look for if you want to step up from the usual two for one and big chain variety of pizza and pasta. Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria is one of those places that qualify and they have been on my list to try for a long time. 

Located at the east end of Hastings just after Holdom in Burnaby, CEP is just off the beaten path enough that parking and access is easy but so is transit.
We started with Arancini. I feel like I often order this and it turns out to be not available (not here obviously but at other places) possibly because it is usually made with leftover risotto. Here, they had it and it was great!
If you are not familiar with it, you should be. Balls of risotto (leftover is better) with cheese, breaded and deep-fried and served with tomato sauce. Soft and melty on the inside with just a bit of crunch. Very simple but very nice!
The Funghi Pizza had an interesting mixture of mushrooms including portabello and we're not sure what else. It was a meaty mixture that was highlighted by onion jam, goat cheese and mozzarella. The crust was just what you hope for with a bit of char and crunch but also that nice bit of chew. One of the better pizzas that we have had in Metro Vancouver, for sure. 
We also tried the Tagliatelle Primavera. There is nothing like house-made pasta and this was very good. Just cooked to the point where there is a little texture (so easy to overcook fresh pasta) that makes pasta more enjoyable. The sauce was simple but rich and they volunteered to grate some fresh parmesan over the top. Who can resist?
With seating inside and a nice covered deck outside, they are ready for year-round service no matter what the current restrictions. CEP has a pleasantly decorated room that kept us entertained and we enjoyed the background soundtrack which included everything from Sam and Dave to Adele without being jarring. The service was very pleasant and the kitchen seemed to be on the ball.
We found the prices to be reasonable enough and can't really find anything not to like! It is worth making a trip here for some decent Italian eats!
Food                  4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort             4 1/2 out of 5
Service              4 1/2 out of 5
Value                 4 1/2 out of 5

Cotto Enoteca Pizzeria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Henry's Hip Eats

So advertising often pays off. The Daily Hive has a "Featured On The Dished Guide" advertising section which changes often (I assume). I noticed Henry's Hip Eats in that advertising. I would not have heard of them otherwise. And then once I saw the ad, I was hooked. It sounded...well, hip. Next, I looked at the menu and then I was really hooked. So we went searching for them and found them camped out next to Dageraad Brewing in Burnaby.

Henry's features Vietnamese-style eats but definitely leaning towards fusion. We ordered a couple of boxes cw sides and took them home.
First was the All Day Brunch Box. It started with a lemongrass fried chicken sandwich complete with a fried egg. All we could say was, wow.! They do a pretty good job with their sandwiches. The bread is really decent. It is soft with just a bit of chewiness and perfect for soaking up sauces. The chicken itself was also nicely cooked with a crispy coating and just a hint of lemongrass flavour. Not sure why it came with a spring roll but we have all had spring rolls and tater tots. It is a pretty nice box for $15 (we forgot to get our soft drinks!)
We also ordered an H2 Eats Box / Henry's Choice. This started with a great marinated pork sandwich sort of a variation on a banh mi complete with pickled vegetables.The pork was just a little sweet and the bun was the same decent bread. There was a good vegetarian spring roll in the box and a couple of deep fried chicken fingers. They were crispy and hot but one was almost all batter with very little chicken and they could have used some salt.
We also ordered a couple of salad rolls which were quite good. Salad rolls aren't exactly brain surgery but they are always light and refreshing.
So Henry's Hip Eats is pretty decent. Find them set up next to a nice microbrewery with a patio and you can have a relaxing and enjoyable meal or visit with whoever you are currently allowed to visit with.
Food                    3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort               Depends, doesn't it?
Service                 4 out of 5 (very nice people)
Value                    3 1/2 out of 5


A Banh Mi Weekend! Vancouver Foodster's Best Banh Mi Challenge

We had this great idea to taste all the Best Bahn Mi Challenge entries in one weekend so that we could best remember and compare one to another. The problem is that even with this scientific method of analysis, there was not really a clear far and away winner! They were all pretty amazing. Still, it was a tasty way to spend parts of a couple of days. The most convenient part of this challenge was the fact that three of the four contenders were within easy distance of one another. And so we started at DD Mau in Yaletown.

Their challenge entry was the Ha Noi Meatball Banh Mi. This was their adaptation of a popular North Vietnamese dish with sweetish grilled pork, pork meatballs and garlic papaya. There were crispy pickled vegetables and jalapenos which offset the sweet pork. The bun, which is always critical to a great banh mi was pillowy on the inside and just a little crunchy on the outside. Excellent! We decided that a Mango Smoothie would be a nice accompaniment.
A few blocks away at DD Mau Chinatown, we tried their Pork Belly Banh Mi. In addition to salty tender pork belly, spicy pickled mustard coleslaw was a star. It was the most unique single ingredient that we encountered this weekend. With some added pickled vegetables, cilantro, a fried egg and another top rung bun, this was another winner. 
At Cold Tea, their challenge entry was the Wake and Bake Sub. Another great bun (where do they all get these wonderful buns ?) with pate and Chinese sausage and an assortment of pickled vegetables. The star of this show was two beautiful sunny-side-up eggs. A great Bahn Mi great for breakfast or any other time.
Finally, our Sunday was marked by lunch from Obanhmi in Langley. The Vegetarian Banh Mi off of their regular menu was their Best Banh Mi Challenge entry. We had some great bread this weekend and this was no exception. Aromatic tofu, avocado and their secret filling (relish..sort of mustard and vinegar flavoured but mild) made up the base here with the usual assortment of veggies and cilantro. I always favour the vegetarian option when it is available and this one was pretty good.
Mharie and I chose our favourites and they seem to coincide with the extra effort put in by the challengers. While the Obanhmi Vegetarian and Cold Tea Wake and Bake were both great sandwiches, DD Mau went the extra mile and developed special BanhMi for the challenge.
While Mharie loved the Yaletown, Ha Noi Meatball sandwich, I was sold by the Chinatown Braised Pork Belly affair (the fried egg tipped me over the edge)!
You still have 2 weekends to try any of these tasty Banh Mi and vote for your favourites!


Wu Fung Dessert

I fooled around with Audible for a couple of months not long ago but I can only subscribe to so many things. How many podcasts and books and music can one person listen to? While there (at Audible) I came across a Canadian restaurant review podcast that took a swing through Richmond and visited some of our favourites such as Hong Kong Barbeque Master and Jade. They also visited Wu Fung Dessert in Aberdeen Mall and I was surprised to learn that they do not in fact, serve desserts. There is a bit of a joke or play on words there but lacking the language skills, I did not get it.WFD is a family business going back quite a while and seems to be one of the AM favourites judging by the lineup we encountered on the weekend at about noon. 

They are apparently famous for their wings which are available in various quantities and combinations.
We chose a 3-pack which was only $7. They were in fact pretty spectacular wings. Crispy on the outside but still moist on the they are supposed to be, you know? Lightly coated with maybe a rice flour or cornstarch-based coating to make them crispy.
As part of a combo, we chose brisket and tofu skin with Vermicelli in broth. If not a show stopper, this was a very comforting dish and the brisket was nicely tender and 'beefy'. The combo came with a beverage and we chose Lemon Coke which was very much just coke with a hit of lemon slices and juice. It was a nice and tasty idea.
There are quite a few deep-fried items on their menu and we chose Deep-Fried Intestines. Not my favourite thing (sort of too organy for me) but Mharie liked them. They came with a slightly spicy dipping sauce which was pretty necessary and cut through the strong flavours.
Finally, we tried a dish of Pork Skin and Daikon Radish. I assume that this is a home-style dish which might comfort people and remind them of their childhood. While it did not remind me of my childhood, it was rich and warm with interesting texture but not leaping out with big flavour. Just kind of nice, you know?
There is a lot of food court seating but it gets busy at mealtimes. The same advice applies as when we tried Liang Crispy Rolls, namely, dine at off times or have someone lined up for a tab;e while someone else waits for the food! Or get your food to go.
Food             3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        3 out of 5
Service         3 1/2 out of 5
Value            3 1/2 out of 5 

R and H Chinese Food

In the sadness of Landsdown Mall's abandoned food court (well at least until the indoor dining ban ended) is a warren of dumpling making activity know and R and H Chinese Food. We have meant to for a long time sample their renowned bao and other tasty house-made noodles. 

Of course, there was a lineup but the lineup moved quickly. While two women worked wordlessly and tirelessly rolling out and stuffing dumplings, two young fellows took orders, cooked, and filled said orders. This was a few short weeks ago now and there was no dining permitted in the food courts so we got our goodies to go.
First up was their famous Xia Long Bao (am I pronouncing that correctly?). As expected they made us very happy. The wrapper was thin but still nicely chewy and yet somehow also survived the trip home. The filling was porky and the soup just fine. They are one of the very good producers of these dumplings.
I was intrigued by the notion of Millet Congee and since it was offered in a combination with pork dumplings we decided to try this. The dumplings were great of course. The congee was comforting and warm but not bursting with flavour (nor did we expect it to be). It reminded me of my oatmeal days. Just a plain warm dish, really not unlike plain rice congee, that makes you feel relaxed and cared for.
As we stood in line, we watched the dumpling ladies working away, rolling dough, filling it, folding and pinching. It turned out they were making pork and chive dumplings. Needless to say, we had to order some. Again, pretty tasty.
Of course, R and H does more than just dumplings. We also enjoyed a Chinese Burger. This one was beef and really good. The beef was tender and served on a nice bun which soaked up the beefy flavour.
Now that dining has opened up, you can enjoy your dumplings etc in the Landsdowne Mall food court seating area. This place has been here for a long time and we hope that it will continue a long time. It gives shoppers a better choice than the typical mall fast food which should definitely be given a miss. R and H is one of those places that is nearing legendary status.
Food             4 1/2 out of 5
Service         3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort        3 out of 5 (when the dining area is open)
Value            4 1/2 out of 5

Tendon Kohaku

We seemed to be walking past this place for months while they were "Coming Soon!" It's not that surprising as Vancouver seems to be a sea of red tape at the best of times with the situation made worse by our favourite virus. Then one day, all of the sudden, there were people inside!

Located at the corner of Howe and Smithe, the building sign for Tendon Kohaku is a little hard to see but the sandwich board out front is a decent marker. We were able to walk right in (with our masks, of course) and were given a table.
All of the bowls come with miso soup of course. We liked the dinnerware they used complete with lids. The miso soup had nice little tofu puffs floating in the broth.
Mharie had the Kohaku Tendon which was pretty straightforward with a couple of prawns, chicken, squid and assorted veggies including Kobocha squash. The tendon sauce is teriyaki-ish and tasty. Everything was nice and crispy that was supposed to be crispy with rice to finish and help soak up the sauce.
I ordered the Sashimi Aimori  Tendon which provided a little bit of a variation on the theme. There was a decent amount of salmon, tuna, and scallop with a good helping of Ikura. A little wasabi on the side and I was a happy camper.
We ordered each of our bowls as combos, one with Chawanmushi, a Japanese steamed egg which was brilliant. It was custardy and subtle in flavour.
The other we ordered with Tomato Ikko which was new to me and maybe the first time that I have eaten a tomato with chopsticks. It is described as marinated in a house sauce to give it a sweet and sour flavour. I found it close to balsamic vinegar. It was cold and refreshing. Very good!
TK is a bright and comfortable place and the staff could not be friendlier. Tempura is not rare or new to Vancouver but the few places that we have now that specialize are kind of unique. It is inexpensive and satisfying and we always look forward to trying them out. You should also.
Food                    3 1/2 out of 5
Service                 4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort               4 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5

N.B. Sorry about the early misspelling!

Liang Crispy Rolls

I wasn't really sure who Jay Chou is so I listened to some of his stuff on Apple Music and I have to tell you that his Bedtimes Stories album is not terrible in small doses (I was fully prepared to hate it because the genre has the word 'pop' in it as in mandopop). Also, he seems to like Liang Crispy Rolls and so do we (it turns out) so we at least have that in common. Mharie and I realized that we were going to be in Aberdeen Mall specifically to try out another place and decided to make it a two for one visit. We haven't been in the mall for at least a year and a half in our effort to avoid crowded places so it was a bit of a shock to the system (plus I hate the parkade there with a passion).

We arrived before the lunch rush which is something that I always recommend that you do (or well after if you prefer) so the line had not yet formed. We ordered a cross-section off the brief and simple menu and waited for our number to be called.
Mr. Chou's face was right on the packaging which may make the whole experience significant for his fans but we didn't even show the respect of saving it for a souvenir like a BTS MacDonald's bag.
LCR serves exactly what you expect, green onion pancake (who doesn't love that) with the filling of your choice. We tried the Teppan Grilled Squid which was tender and seasoned with some variation on a teriyaki sauce (they call it house sauce). It also had some scrambled egg and crispy green vegetables to round things out. As for the pancake itself, it was very good being flaky with a bit of a nice chew.
We were more than a little impressed with the Lobster Crispy Roll. At $16.95, I consider it to be a bit of a bargain considering we got 3 sizeable lumps of lobster in addition to smaller pieces. Most of it was quite tender and tasted fresh. The lobster salad was a mayo type which it should be as it would be overwhelmed by anything like teriyaki. Same lettuce etc. to round out the roll and again the crispy pancake. This was a real treat!
There are not a lot of other things on the menu and that's OK. We tried a combo of Taiwanese sausage and soy milk which seems a little strange but was quite tasty.
The food court dining area runs at capacity during busy times. Have at least one person line up for a table and have someone else wait for the food...or do take out. Definitely give this place a try. Maybe JC will show up while you're waiting!
Food                 4 out of 5
Comfort            3 out of 5
Service             4 out of 5
Value                3 1/2 out of 5 

Top Rope Birria

Our life quest to discover all the Birria that Metro Vancouver has to offer has finally brought us to Top Rope Birria. This really should have been our first stop but it has been a little bit of a challenge for us as Valley folk to get to TR given that their schedule changes and doesn't always match ours. Nevertheless, we made it on a Sunday afternoon when they were set up at Strange Bedfellows Brewery on Clarke Drive.

According to Kevin, who started this thing, they have just moved into a truck to call their own so while it is unmarked at the moment, it will be more identifiable soon. Our intent as usual was to order as much as we could off of their menu but we added a couple of soft drinks from Strange Bedfellows and used their outdoor patio.
To be honest the menu at TR is not long which is fine. We were here for one thing and that was the Birria Tacos.
And they were things of beauty (we ordered 2 complete with cheese skirts). It is to a ridiculous degree all about the cheese and I'm not even sure why skirts are an option. Make sure you include them. The cheese is also present in copious quantities on the inside.
Also, the beef is also served up in the largest quantities of any of the Biria tacos that we have sampled. Make sure you get enough napkins as this is a wonderfully messy item. Mharie is not convinced that this is the richest broth that had accompanied the tacos (the Tacomio lamb broth kind of wins there) but it was still pretty great.
To be honest, I am already losing track of what the other items were that we ordered. One was a quesadilla that is not on the menu and was only available in a limited quantity. I think kimchi was the main addition to this. It came with a decent salsa but the clincher was again the cheese. You can see in the photo how the cheese has melted itself onto the tortilla.
Finally, there was a veggie taco which in this case meant mushroom. The mushrooms had big savoury flavour which stood up pretty well to the big flavour of the cheese. It also came with broth for dipping.  I didn't think to ask if it was a mushroom broth. Either way, delicious again.
On the side, we had their pickled veggies and kimchi. Both made a nice contrast to the rich tacos. We also tried their house-made hot sauce which is excellent but be aware that it is not mild! I'm going to go ahead and confirm that these are the best birria tacos we have had in Metro Vancouver so far (although we have loved them all). Kevin dropped hints that they might do a goat meat taco at some point which would be the closest to the Jalisco Mexico original item so watch for that. Put this on your list and make a concerted effort to find Top Rope Birria.
Food            5 out of 5
Comfort       NA (pretty good if you use Strange Bedfellows patio)
Service        4 out of 5 (friendly and efficient but how do you rate non-table service?)
Value           5 out of 5

Top Rope Birria Food Truck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Paul Bakery, Cafe and Restaurant

I am not a fan of lining up. I would never line up for say, a hot dog on a stick at the corner of Robson and Denman. All right, I admit that during this pandemic we have lined up (and patiently) for groceries and other necessities where social distancing was necessary for the welfare of all. So let's say that I've softened a little over the last couple of years and now there are some things that I might line up for (they still don't include a rice hot dog...unless the line was short). So we lined up at Paul for over an hour but I can explain it! First of all, Paul is a French bakery company that is over 130 years old and has branches in 34 countries and this is their first branch in Canada! Secondly, it was a beautiful Saturday in Vancouver so everyone was going to be out and we knew there would be a line up so we had no excuse. Thirdly, it ended up being kind of fun in the line as we joked with our neighbours and laughed cruelly together as new people came along and realized just how long the line was. And fourthly, check out the baked goods at this place!

So we waited an hour and then felt like the time investment meant that we should try everything on the menu. Paul is not open for dine-in yet but this is a beautiful place and will be a top destination for lunch or a casual dinner. In the meantime, you can get some lovely baked goods to go and there are enough savoury items that you can make a meal out of it.
We started (at the savoury end of things) with Quiche Lorraine. Mharie had never had this before and really enjoyed it. We warmed it slightly in the microwave which worked quite well (15 seconds and then 10 seconds). Lots of Gruyere and a good taste of bacon as well as a nicely creamy custard.
Also savoury was an olive breadstick ( can't remember what it was called) which was chewy and full of olives. I loved this but Mharie is not an olive fan.
When we got to the counter to order at Paul, they had started to run out of a few things (somewhere around noon?) but we could not leave without sampling their brioche. The only brioche available was the rather large Brioche au Sucre. It was rich and buttery and nicely chewy around the edges and it was hard to leave it alone once we had started eating it.
We were perhaps the least enthusiastic about the almond tarte. Still tasty with a nice flaky crust but maybe just a touch on the dry side.
Mharie had never had Mille Feuille and so I told her this would change her life. It did! This was a pretty amazing version of something that is pretty common in eastern Canada and obviously France. The custardy centre is rich and sweet while the puff pastry exterior is flaky but maybe just a little on the tough side. I'm not sure if that is even avoidable. The icing takes it all to another level.
And finally, the highlight as far as I am concerned was this blueberry tart. Deliciously fresh blueberries and creamy custard. a tasty just firm enough crust. This and their other fruit tarts should not be missed.
Paul is not cheap but it is not ridiculously expensive either. All our goodies and a pretty decent coffee came to about $60 before tip but just a treat or two would have been sufficient. This is only the beginning of their menu and if I understand correctly, they will be serving meals before long. If you line up, make sure it's a nice day. Presumably, before too long the lining up will subside somewhat and Paul will just be a great place for a light meal or a baked treat.
Food            4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort      4 out of 5 (at least, it will be)
Service        4 1/2 out of 5
Value           4 out of 5

Paul Cafe, Bakery and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...