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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Insadong Coquitlam & Hmart Bakery

We actually had my birthday dinner the day before my birthday, since Dark Table wasn’t open the day of.  So the day of, we went out for a less planned out but no less extravagant dinner.  But it didn’t start out that way…

At first, Hitman wanted to take me to the rice cake cafe (Midam Rice Cake House) in Coquitlam for dinner and dessert/birthday cake since he knows I love rice cakes.  When we arrived, we quickly realized that the reviews online were right…if you didn’t speak Korean, you are knee-deep in bad stuff.

Hitman asked me to visit the grocery store next door to see if I’m interested in any cakes there, in case I didn’t want anything here.  So I went next door, during which time Hitman, being the sweetheart that he is, actually ordered a piece of cake for me and it was to be a surprise.  He repeatedly instructed the server that it’s “my girlfriend’s birthday, so it has to be a surprise, don’t mention anything.” The server (Server 1)  then got another server (Server 2), who apparently spoke better English, to come over and listen too.  Hitman was sure that everything would be fine, since they had even managed to understand his request for a candle.

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Cork and Fin

It was Mom’s birthday this month so Pretty Sis and I took her and some other family members to a place interestingly called Cork and Fin in Gastown.  I guess by that name it means they specialize in wines and seafood??

They are a participant of the Let’s Go For Dinner program which gives you 50% off dinner certificates.  Use my referral code (RAF315892) if you are interested!!

The entrance is quite inconspicuous as it doesn’t really have the restaurant name stand out.  But it’s also not hard to find.

Cork and Fin: bread basket

The staff is actually very, very nice and helpful.  We were originally seated near the door in the middle of the restaurant, but knowing our Asian parents, they don’t like that.  So we asked for a more intimate booth near the back of the restaurant.  The staff were extremely nice about it and accommodated us well.

Another thing was, our aunt is a vegetarian, but they obviously didn’t really have strict vegetarian options here, so once again we made special requests and again the server was very helpful with his suggestions.

The bread, however, took quite a bit to arrive.  It wasn’t served warm as I would’ve preferred but it was soft and fresh.  I think it’s just regular bread as it didn’t taste much like sourdough to me.

A thing to note though is that this is mostly a share-plate type restaurant, so don’t expect big portions.

Cork and Fin: Market Salad

Now my aunt is quite the finicky and picky eater.  We sort of picked for her the normal Market Salad which came with walnuts, pear, and a creamy gorgonzola dressing.  That actually sounded pretty divine to us  however PS and I both knew without asking that she will complain about the intense (and delicious) flavor of the gorgonzola, so we just asked for the dressing to be changed to a regular lemon and olive oil one.

Cork and Fin: Seafood Tower

PS, Mom and I are more the foodie types.  We ordered the small Seafood Tower to share.  It was a good deal at $33 and it came with 4 portions of cooked clams and mussels, raw oysters and cooked shrimp.  Everything was very very fresh, especially the oysters, with its rich and flavorful brine it was easily the best part of the tower.  My next favorite were the fat mussels, which were both sweet and rich with such a satisfying bite.  The clams were ok, decent sized but not much to say in terms of flavor, and the shrimp was like a regular shrimp cocktail type thing.  The tower was served with a cocktail sauce, a garlicky lemon vinagrette, and a cucumber sunomono (which was just alright.  Presented well though.).

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Attempts at Cooking Series: Steamed Clams in Chinese Wine

Boyfriend and I chose to splurge on a home-cooked dinner one night.  We both love shellfish, and they seem easy enough to prepare, so that’s what we had.

Besides clams I really didn’t want to have to buy anything extra, but most of the recipes online call for dry white wine, which we don’t have.  So I tried to make do with what I had at home.

Chinese Wine

And this was what I had.  Now I’m not really sure what these taste like but that one on the left I’ve seen used to make crabs and prawns, so I figured it’ll be ok.

So to prepare the clams, I followed instructions from Blue Lotus.  They were first soaked in enough water to cover them, plus 1 tsp of salt per 200mL of water.  They could be soaked for several hours or overnight.  Afterwards, instead of pouring the clams out along with the water, I picked out the clams into a strainer then poured out the water, so the dirt doesn’t get mixed around again.  Then, the clams were scrubbed and rinsed and placed aside.

Steamed Clams in Chinese Wine

So I wasn’t sure how much of each should be in, but I put in enough to cover half the clams, then a few dashes of the Rose Wine, plus a few sprinkles of fish sauce.  I also added two cloves of garlic and a slice of garlic, plus a LARGE bunch of cilantro (I love cilantro!!).  Once things come to a boil, lower to heat to a simmer.  When all the clams are opened, you can remove the pot from the heat and they’re ready for eating!!

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Cafe de Waraku 和樂屋

Cafe de Waraku

Dinner with F again!

Driving past Central Square I spotted a new restaurant right beside Excellent Tofu.  It’s called Cafe de Waraku and it appears to be a Japanese Style Spaghetti House.  However, having done some research on it, it so happens to be started in Singapore.  So Japanese style huh…gotta see what that is…

Also, they state that they are MSG-free, that’s a nice change too.

Cafe de Waraku menu

We opted for two items from their Special Dinner Menu as it seems like a good deal.  Mind you, the dishes are not expensive anyways.  Pasta ranges from $5.99-8.49.  There are different styles such as Tomato, Creamy Tomato, “Stir-fried”, Meat Sauce, Cream Sauce, etc.  Salads were cheap too, $1.99, soup’s probably the same.

Cafe de Waraku: Garden Salad

We both picked the Garden Salad.  It’s nothing special.  I highly suspect that the salad mix is premade.  The dressing was good but not extraordinary.  Seems like something I can make at home with store-bought materials.

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