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May 28, 2009 01:21 AM

Day 4: Kirin Mandarin, JJ Bean’s, Terra Bread, Edible BC, Irish Heather, Chambar

Food-wise, Day 4 was definitely the highlight of our trip! Headed to Kirin Mandarin for dimsum at 11am. We didn’t want to fill up too much since we were headed to Granville Island, so we ordered hargow, salt & pepper squid and a steamed monthly special dumpling with shrimp, scallop and thinly sliced asparagus with a pot of chrysanthemum tea. We also ordered a pound of spotted prawns which we thought quite reasonable at $13.80/lb. We later saw spotted prawns selling at Granville Island Market for almost $12/lb.

The S&P squid had a very unusual crust – slightly sweet and I wonder if they use cake flour in the batter. We loved it, but I could see how it might not appeal to everyone. We also loved the thinly sliced fried garlic pieces and the generous portion of fried diced garlic in the dish. We were tempted to order more food, but wanted to conserve stomach space. Later, I regretted not ordering more food at Kirin.

We also ordered a pound of spotted prawns cooked the famous “house way,” as demanded by our very competent waiter who thankfully spoke very good English and guided us in our ordering. We usually order dim sum from carts and I had no idea what to order from the dim sum menu. The whole shrimp appeared to have been wok seared with hot oil, a touch of soy sauce and garnished with chopped chives. We devoured the plump sweet shrimp.

We’ve never eaten at Yank Sing in San Francisco, although I have had dim sum at Koi Palace (Dublin location) several times. Hubby and I agreed that Kirin was definitely the best dim sum we’d ever eaten. Is Shanghai River better than Kirin, because it’s going to be hard not to return to Kirin again for dim sum. Especially since it’s less than 5 minutes from our condo! Total after tax and tip was $38.

We took the bus to Granville Island to check out the Public Market. We were way too full to even consider eating at Go Fish. As many of you said, Lobster Man wasn’t really a place for good take-out. However, I grew up in Houston and I’m used to purchasing freshly cooked food to go from wholesale/retail markets right off fisherman’s wharf in Galveston.

We entered the Public Market and went in search of JJ Bean’s. Hubby wasn’t thrilled with his Americano (said Medino’s was way better), but I enjoyed my latte very much. We tried the small walnut roll, fig & anise roll and grape & pine nut foccacia slice from Terra. We both liked the foccacia, but we weren’t impressed with our rolls. If Terra is the best in Vancouver, wait until you try Tartine Bakery’s country loaf or Acme’s pain epi in San Francisco!

We were too full to eat anything else and quite frankly, feeling overwhelmed with the crowd of people wandering the market. We headed to Edible BC to check out their salt offerings. Sadly, they were sold out of their top two salts from Contemporary Ocean Products – C’s citrus salt and C’s raspberry salt.

After sampling a few salts, I purchased C’s smoke sea salt flakes (big thumb’s up) which reminded me of English Maldon flake salt, but with a deep and intense smoky taste, a bag of Maison Cote’s Kitsilano pepper blend (blend of black, green white and pink pepper corn), a jar of Wendy Boys caramel with salted butter and Tahitian vanilla and a box of Wendy Boy’s milk chocolate caramel crunch with vanilla salt.

I was told Wendy Boys used to be the pastry chef at Lumiere. I enjoyed the tasting menu at Lumiere during my visit in March 2002, so I was keen to try her products. We were offered a taste of her caramel, but no samples of the chocolate were offered. We loved the caramel, but sadly weren’t wowed by the chocolate when we tried it later that afternoon with our Guiness at Irish Heather.

I wasn’t able to sample the pepper blend, but I was told it was their most popular pepper blend. I’d read other CHs comment that the salts at BC were quite reasonable, but I actually found them pricey. Perhaps they’ve recently raised their prices? My smoked salt was $11 for 2.1 ounces!

We quickly tired of shopping and hopped on the Aquabus to Yaletown. $6 each for the short boat ride to Science World, but worth the time savings of traveling from Granville Island to Yaletown by bus. We walked from Science World through Chinatown to Irish Heater in Gastown, where hubby had a couple of pints of perfectly drawn Guinness and I had a very tasty virgin mary made with Clamato juice served in a glass rimmed with cumin salt. Total after tax and tip was $20. Loved the atmosphere and asked if they had shirts for sale. Sadly, the answer was “no.”

Here’s where we hit a road bump. I thought the Spanish wine-maker’s event at Salt Tasting Room was tonight (Wednesday) and literally planned our entire day in order to make the 6pm event. We walked into Salt at 5:50pm to discover the event was actually on Thursday evening at 6pm! I was so bummed, as today would have been the perfect day to travel to Whistler had I known we were free this evening!

After seeing my crushed face, hubby suggested we hit Chambar for dinner instead. Chambar was definitely the food highlight of our trip to date! WOW. Greyelf, get thee to Chambar ASAP. It is definitely worth the moola. Great food, great service, terrific ambiance. Be forewarned, however, that the restaurant can be quite loud. Again, for those familiar with San Francisco, think Town Hall-loud, which I feel at times can be quite uncomfortable.

We were seated in the booth along the wall just past the bar between the entrance to the women’s bathroom, across from the two two-tops along the wall. We sat next to a party of eight that ordered every single appetizer on the menu, so we luckily got to view each appetizer before we ordered our meal.

We started our meal with the famous blue fig martini (oven roasted figs steeped in gin served with a side of Danish blue cheese) and il pomelmo (fresh muddled thyme with pink grapefruit, grappa, whiskey and maple syrup garnished with candied thyme). Both drinks were fabulous, especially the martini which tasted best with some cheese and a sip of martini consumed simultaneously. We probably would have ordered another round if we hadn’t made the previous stop at Irish Heather.

It was hard to choose, but we ultimately went with spot prawn appetizer prepared three ways (citrus olive oil poached, panko crusted and curried bisque). We thought the prawns at Kirin were good, but these were absolutely phenomenal!!! The fried panko crusted prawns were probably the best I’ve ever had and the citrus poached prawns had the perfect cerviche-type texture with no hint of gumminess or mealy taste. Bisque was also delicious. Hubby and I agreed that $17 for exactly four prawns was indeed spendy, but honestly, we’d do it again and gladly!!!

We ordered moules frites congolaise (mussels cooked with tomato coconut cream, smoked chili and lime served with French fries and homemade lemon garlic aioli). We also ordered a side of bread with smoked paprika butter. We enjoyed our congolaise, but wish we would have stuck with our original choice of vin blanc (mussels cooked in white wine butter with braised celery, lees and coarse black pepper). However, we were glad we tried the congolaise which isn’t as prevalent back home. Hubby had a glass of German Riesling with the mussels.

We were pleased to find the mussels were cooked perfectly. There wasn’t a single bad mussel in our pot, nor did a single one have a broken shell! Also, the portion was huge and plenty for two people to share. We were glad to have some bread to sop up the tasty broth, but wished the bread tasted better. Neither of us enjoyed the smoked paprika butter. We longed for some plain sweet cream butter instead.

We ate every single fry. They were cooked perfectly without a single burnt or bad fry in the bunch. However, we did add our own Maldon salt which we never leave home without. The accompanying aioli went terrific with the fries.

Dessert was probably the closest thing to a misstep. Our waiter suggested the bavarois, a Napolean-style dessert with a flakey pastry crust, pistachio cream topped with caramel-flavored gelatin and crushed pistachios, served with ginger ice cream and geranium syrup (?). I had an espresso (way too strong for my taste) and hubby had the latte which I should have ordered as well. We thought Chambar was good value given the quality of the food and wouldn’t hesitate to return. Total after tax and tip was $120.

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  1. Chambar is one of my favourite places to eat (and drink). Pricey, but totally worth the spend.

    On Kirin vs Shanghai River...they are both good, but I will have to give the nod to SR.

    San Francisco definitely has the edge on bread. And I fondly remember the breads and pastries at Tartine.

    On the Heather...if you loved the atmosphere would have really loved the old place. The space was very old and quirky.

    You are in a perfect time for spot prawns....if you really want to chow down on these beauties...pick up a lb or two at T&T or Chinatown and boil them up quickly in your condo. They are running at about $9/lb right now and at certain places $7/lb.

    Have fun at Salt tonight!

    1 Reply
    1. re: fmed

      Hi Fmed. Don't know if I'll have time to post about Salt tonight, but we had fun at our wine event! We have to be at Harbour Air by 6:30am tomorrow morning and by now, you've probably guessed that my husband and I are NOT "morning people," lol!

    2. Kirin Mandarin over Shanghai River if it's dim sum. Thank god you went to the downtown Kirin, because Kirin Seafood in Richmond has gone steeply downhill. I had some good experiences there when they first opened, but lately the quality has really declined and I have heard other horror stories (watch how they are billing you) from various people.

      Terra Breads is FAR from being the best in Vancouver. The only thing I get from Terra is their fig and anise loaf. Transylvania bakery, European bakery and even some loaves from Mediterranean bakery are my preferences. Swiss bakery too, though they're not always consistent. But I agree with you that SF has a much better selection!

      If you're back in Yaletown again, make it a point to visit Ganache Patisserie for dessert. You can forget their pre-packaged goods (the pates des fruits, the canelles, madeleines), but the cakes are not to be missed. IMHO some of the most creative and reliably well-executed desserts in the downtown/yaletown area.

      7 Replies
      1. re: kidpresentable

        Thanks for the endorsement of Kirin over SR for dim sum, Kidpresentable. We're leaning towards returning to Kirin for dimsum on Sunday before heading out of town. Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be back in Yaletown again before we leave (headed to Victoria Friday and maybe Whistler Saturday), but I'll add Granache Patisserie to our list for our next visit! Thanks.

        1. re: kidpresentable

          Also meant to mention for those who might be interested in eating at KM and need a place to park, I noticed that our building (a residential condo) at 1211 Melville offers paid hourly public parking in their underground parking garage. The entrance is on Pender before you hit Bute, right before you get to the London Drugs on the corner.

          Not sure how much they charge since we had a key fob which allowed us entrance to the garage, but might be an option for those seeking a parking space convenient to Robson. It's also walking distance to Stanley Park and Canada Place and you can walk to both places along the seawall.

          1. re: cvhound

            It is probably too late for you to get this tip, but if you like bread you simply cannot miss Fol Epi when you go to Victoria. They mill all of their own flour from organic wheat (including their own white flour) and make the best baguettes I have ever tasted. Their country white loaf is also great, as are their crossaints and pain au chocolat. They are located just across the old "Blue Bridge" (formerly known as the Johnson Street Bridge) in a new development known as Dockside Green. And I should mention that the sandwiches as Fol Epi are phenomenal.

            1. re: anewton

              Darn! Wish we'd have known as I think we were in that area this morning. We had breakfast at Mo:Le and were simply blown away by their food. Even surpassed Medina here in Vancouver in terms of overall taste. Will post about our Victoria eating when I have more time.

            2. re: cvhound

              CVHound - Been enjoying your reports back here in the East Bay. On to Whistler, I suspect?

              1. re: Cecelia

                Yup, just flew back from Victoria via sea plane. Came back to shower and change before we head out for dinner. You wouldn't believe the weather we've been having up here! Planning to head up to Whistler early tomorrow morning...

              2. re: cvhound

                Saw last night that the parking at our building is $2.50 per half hour, so street option if available is a much better deal. Also, it's a Shopper's Drug Market on the corner and not London Drugs.