Birthday dinner #3 – Locals Restaurant at the Old House

We spent the holidays over on Vancouver Island this year.  There didn’t seem to be too many fine dining choices in the Comox Valley area, but it was recommended we go to Locals Restaurant in Courtenay, so for my official birthday dinner celebration with Hitman that’s where we went.  They’re known for sourcing their food locally whenever they can (hence their name).

It had a very warm and inviting atmosphere.  There was even a fully decorated Christmas tree at the entrance with stools for you to take pictures on.

However, some parts of the service left much to be desired. Read on to find out!

Locals Restaurant: Bison Tartare on Asian Salad Amuse Bouche

We were promptly seated as we had already made reservations.  While we were looking through the menu we were offered an amuse bouche of Bison Tartare on Asian Salad.  It was a bit tart, and I thought that covered any hint of gaminess the bison might have. The salad portion was an interpretation of an “Asian” slaw.

Locals Restaurant: Grains bread with chickpea spread

For the complimentary bread, it was multigrain bread from the local bakery Grains.  Alongside was Locals Restaurant’s house-made chickpea spread.  I wasn’t too fond of the spread as it was too bland for my liking.  Hitman really enjoyed it though and he even tasted hints of cumin in it.

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U & I Thai

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It’s very difficult to get Fannypack to make a choice…with me anyways. However for her birthday I finally got her to choose a place to eat.  She ended up picking U & I Thai in Cambie so a date was set!

We were supposed to pick a dish each but I of course ended up picking most of them.

On another note, it seems like the servers were Thai, so that gave me comfort on the authenticity of this place.

U & I Thai: Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

For appy I picked the Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum) ($10.95). The green Papaya shreds had the right amount of crunch. The dressing was a bit tart for me but it all melded very well together. Portion was a bit small.

U & I Thai: Authentic Pad Thai

Next up was the Authentic Pad Thai ($12.95). Why is it ‘authentic’ you ask?? Well it’s because instead of the usual ketchup-based sauce most other restaurants use, here they use a Tamarind sauce. Also interesting is the addition of banana flowers.

U & I Thai: Red Curry Duck with Lychee

For the obligatory curry dish I picked the Red Curry Duck with Lychee ($15.95). It was a sweet curry, likely due to the lychee. However there weren’t many pieces of them… Probably just 3? The duck was also in smaller shreds. Otherwise the sauce went quite well with rice.

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Lazymeal Mashup: Handi Cuisine of India (Burnaby)

For those of you not yet familiar with lazymeal, it’s an online food ordering platform that is focused on recommending the tastiest meals in greater Vancouver.  It’s simple, just punch in your postal code and peruse the menus of establishments in your area, place your order, and voila!  lazymeal delivers.  They’re partnering up with the local food blogging community to evaluate the restaurants you can order from on their sites, and we were lucky enough to get an invite to one of their mashup events.

For these reviews (and you will probably see more of them in the near future) we will be focusing on the take-out aspect of the restaurants, so don’t expect any info on the service and decor etc.  But we think all in all these reviews will be more informative to our readers since we will get to sample a wider selection of the menu than usual, because the food is the most important aspect after all, right?  And don’t worry, we aren’t selling out; we’ve been encouraged to be completely honest with our reviews.  Enjoy this write up of Handi Cuisine!

Lazymeal Mashup at Handi Cuisine of India Burnaby: Mixed Platter and Chutney Trio

First up we had the Mixed Platter ($10) and Chutney Trio ($2).  It consists of vegetable samosas, chicken pakoras and vegetable pakoras.  The samosas in particular stood out from the crowd; they contained a pretty complex spice blend compared to your average restaurant samosa.  Wendy said it tasted Christmas-ey, and I agreed.  Cloves and nutmeg perhaps?  Maybe some ginger?  I don’t know for sure, but you could tell by the dark colour of the potato mixture inside that there was a lot going on in that spice blend.

The chicken pakoras had decently sized chunks of moist meat and tasted great with the spicy mint chutney.  The tamarind was of the usual variety that normally come free with samosas and the mango chutney was really sweet.  If you go for this platter I’d suggest getting the chutney to go with it.  While the samosas could stand on their own the vegetable pakoras might be a bit dry without.

Lazymeal Mashup at Handi Cuisine of India Burnaby: Cucumber Salad

Along with the appetizers we tried their Cucumber Salad ($6).  Some of the red you see in the photo is tomato, and some is…maraschino cherry!  Pretty unexpected but it actually went quite well in the salad.  They use it for garnish in several dishes, and it isn’t necessarily meant to be eaten with the meal but in this case it worked.  The yoghurt-type dressing was cool and creamy (Wendy found a tinge of sweetness) and the whole dish was very refreshing.

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Dine Out Vancouver 2013: Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company ft. Stanley Park Brewery….plus GIVEAWAY!!!

How is this year’s Dine Out fest treating everyone so far??  If you’re having trouble deciding on a final one, or even ONE, Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company (RMFC) would be a great choice.  Extremely family-friendly (there’s a play area for the kiddies….and step stools in the washrooms too!!), it’s a break from the many other hoity-toity establishments around!

Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company and Stanley Park Brewery

As with previous years, they are offering a great menu at $18 that includes an appy choice of either one of their salads or a soup of the day, an entree of either a pizza or flatbread creation from their regular menu, and a choice of dessert.  They were kind enough to extend an invite for Hitman and I to “dine out” at one of their locations and we took up this offer to visit their Main Street digs.

It just so happens that on the night of our visit, RMFC joined up with Stanley Park Brewery for a night of pizza making and beer tasting.  At first I didn’t pay much attention to the partnership, but as the night went along and after talking to both parties, we got an idea of how these two companies were such a great match…one word – Sustainability.

First and foremost, I really appreciated the fact that both companies are locally owned and operated.  As for the environmental side, in every step of the brewing process Stanley Park Brewery minimizes strain on the environment either by reducing energy consumption, reducing waste, or improving efficiency (more information here).  To up their cool factor, they have a specialty-built wind turbine for power to lessen their environmental impact!!  And this, my friends, is how they can boast themselves as Canada’s first sustainable brewery.

As for their beer itself, it’s free of preservatives and additives, which is why it takes them 21-28 days for a brew compared to the typical 7 days.  The result is a fresher, cleaner tasting beer.

Not to be outdone by the brewery, RMFC has maintained a green initiative since day one.  Their efforts include accomplishing a zero-waste integrated menu (use or reuse all components of what makes up their menu one way or another, including composting any waste generated, recycling etc.), using energy efficient lights, reclaimed wood, non-toxic paints, biodegradable take-out ware, efficient taps and toilets in the restaurants, utilizing green electricity, purchasing carbon offsets, and buying locally-sourced produce.  What a list huh?!

That’s all very impressive…but how does the food taste???

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Dine Out Vancouver 2013: Judas Goat Taberna

Wendy and I managed to secure a reservation on Dine Out Vancouver‘s opening night this year for one of the more intriguing of the $18 menu hosts; Judas Goat Taberna in Gastown.  For those unfamiliar with the Dine-Out concept, it’s a 17-day annual food festival where many local restaurants set a 3 or more course menu for $18, $28 or $38 per person.  Many of these can be really good deals compared to the restaurant’s usual pricing so it’s a lot of fun for bargain hunters like ourselves.

Dine Out Vancouver 2013: Judas Goat Taberna

Judas Goat turned out to be an interesting choice.  Nestled halfway down Vancouver’s notorious Blood Alley, it’s a tiny 28-seat single room tapas space.  And when I say it seats 28 that’s not 28 seated comfortably…they cram you in there pretty tight.  Thankfully we seemed to get the best seats in the house for the claustrophobic, a wrap-around seat corner next to the open kitchen.  Wendy tried to spot the methods used for cooking in such a small space from her vantage point, and it seemed as though the meals had been prepared elsewhere and then reheated prior to serving (sous-vide) which made sense since we couldn’t see a proper stove back there.

Apparently the atmosphere is normally quite lively in there, but on this particular evening it felt just a little awkward to me.  I think it may have helped if they had turned the music up a notch, but I felt like it was too easy to eaves-drop on conversations at neighbouring tables and vice versa.  And it does draw a crowd so reservations are strongly recommended; we saw some people turned away for lack of reservations while we were eating.  Using the washroom here is a “bit of an adventure” as our server put it, so be prepared to walk down a looong hallway for about half a block if you need the facilities (they are shared with the surrounding shops).

Speck with House Made Apricot Mostarde at Judas Goat Taberna

Our meal was 3 course, so we sampled one each of the appetizers.  The Cured Meat Plate: Speck with House Made Apricot Mostarda came with two thin slices of house made baguette and 4 thinner-than-paper slices of prosciutto (San Daniele if I remember the waitress’ spiel correctly).  Also a few cornichons.  Small but delicious, and fit well with the restaurant’s normal theme of tapas.

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