Dulcinea Chocolate Cafe

October 2010 Update:  Someone told me that this place has closed.  It may have survived if they had better churros.

The last time I had really good churros was at a restaurant somewhere and they served it as a part of my dessert course. I don't remember which restaurant or city or time of year, but I do remember my taste buds being deliriously entranced by hot sugary churros crunchy on the outside and fluffy soft on the inside. When we were in Cabo over New Years, we had churros at one of our dinners, I was so excited but unfortunately they were over cooked, it was disappointingly crunchy on the outside and on the inside. The Dulce De leche dipping sauce and cinnamon sugar tried to make up for it but when the texture is all wrong, no amount of sauce can save it.

I was craving churros so we found the perfect place to go have it. The churros at Dulcinea comes with 1528 Spanish style hot chocolate for dipping. It is their signature hot chocolate, think and creamy it's really more like a pudding than a drink. I enjoyed the churros thoroughly even though I saw first hand that they were reheated, not fried to order. But they still stayed crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. If you have a sweet tooth and are used to North American levels of sweetness this may not be thing thing for you. The churros are not sweet at all nor is the hot chocolate. Hubby said it would have been better with cinnamon sugar and caramel sauce.
For my hot chocolate drink I ordered the Xocolatl - Mexican style hot chocolate with cinnamon, nutmeg and chili. They use the same 1582 Spanish style hot chocolate base for all of their hot chocolate varieties, adding flavours and spices. My preference is always dark chocolate, this one was smooth and mellow but not as dark and earthy as I would have liked to have it. If you taste different chocolates grown in different parts of the world, they each have their own unique flavour profile. (Go here to try all the different chocolates, you can customize your drink with the chocolate of your choice.) The cinnamon and chili added a good kick and it was not sweet, but I would have loved to have tasted more punch in the chocolate.
Hubby likes things sweet, so it was good that he went with a Nutella and Banana Milkshake. This was very delicious and creamy.
Dulcinea Cafe
1118 Denman St
Vancouver BC

Dining Out: Secret Garden Tea Co.

One more post dedicated to one of my favourite past times, afternoon tea. Secret Garden Tea Co. should be kept secret to myself but how can I deprive the world of Creamy Earl Grey Tea and giant heart shaped cheese scones? Their treats are good and quality is consistent. Sometimes I feel that going for brunch is better than going for afternoon tea. To be sure you have a seat and not be disappointed, make a reservation.
Secret Garden Tea Co.

Dining Out: ApGuJung

ApGuJung is our default Korean restaurant on Robson. We were planning on trying the new ramen place down the street but when we saw the line up we moved on to plan B. And about that new ramen place, Hubby and I walked by there at around 8:30pm on a Tuesday night and there was still a huge line up. He suggested we go there for a sunrise breakfast.

One of the things I enjoy about Korean food is the side dishes that come at the beginning of your meal. The varieties of Banchan are many, but a staple is kimchi. Our table hardly touched the kimchi. We asked for more of everything else and our waiter said, "You don't like kimchi?" I replied, "We are obviously NOT Korean!". "Oh, I LOVE kimchi," he added. You have to, you are Korean, I think to myself. He probably devoured buckets of the stuff before he learned to walk. I can handle kimchi in small doses, but if there's other stuff on the table, I'd rather not touch it.
Mini dumplings and spicy fish cake and rice cake in hot pepper sauce. Every culture has it's dumplings, these were okay, but thet did remind me of the ones my mom and I used to make at home when I was a child. The fish cake and rice cake was sweet, spicy and tangy. Side note: Maybe if I added sugar to my kimchi I would devour it?
We didn't want to order a giant bulgogi to cook table top because a) it's too much for 4 people if you want to order other stuff and b) we didn't want to smell like bulgogi for the rest of the day, so we opted for the single portion, already cooked for us. How very NOT Korean of us, huh?
Seafood Pancake. This is one of our favourites. It's really just a giant piece of pan fried dough with tidbits of seafood and green onion interspersed. But the brown crusty outside and the soft chewy inside is such a good combo.
Apgujung Korean Restaurant

What were they thinking?

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Mascots:

London 2012 Olympic Mascots:

What on alien planet are those things?!! Vancouver 1, London 0.

Swedish Furniture Name

What would your name be if you were a piece of Swedish Furniture? Go here to find out.

Cute Dolls

I was at the book store today and I discovered Aranzi Aronzo. Japanese craft books in English. Yay! Cute Dolls, Fun Dolls, Cute Stuff, and Baby Stuff are some of the book titles. I see craft project in my future.

Dining Out: Tojo's

I have heard so many things about Tojo's. Apparently, Mr. Tojo San invented the California Roll and his restaurant's acclaim is the BEST Japanese in Vancouver, if not outside of Japan. I was dying to go and be completely spoiled. We sat at the sushi bar (my choice, which ever seat is closest to the kitchen, put me there.) and might I add right in front of Mr. Tojo San himself. I could hardly contain myself. Of course, we ordered the Omakase, where the chef decides what's going to go into our anxious bellies. We really had no choice in the matter because if you sit at the bar, you are getting the Omakase, house rules. Mr. Tojo San greeted us, inquiring, Have you been here before? No. Well you should come more often! Yes, we should. Do you have allergies? No. Any dietary restrictions? No. Any thing you don't like? No. I like EVERYTHING. Okay, I will make you the best Japanese you've ever had. Excellent.

It was a delight to be seated right in front of all the action. Our very attentive waiter doubled as swing cook, he was clearly of Indian descent, but when it got busy in the kitchen he would go around the counter, speak a few words of Japanese to Mr. Tojo San, and whip up sushi rolls with lightening speed and accuracy. The other fun thing I noticed in the quietly executed kitchen was the little toaster oven that they use to broil all the little morsels of yumminess. It was a standard Black and Decker that's been left on continuously for way too long because the white sides have all turned brown and it looks like it's about to catch on fire.

What unfolded before us for the next 2 hours were one of the most well orchestrated symphony of visually appealing and delectably tasting 10 dishes I've ever had. (The last time this happened to me was long ago at Nobu in NYC) It was probably the standard Omakase that he prepares for all first timers, but he did promise us that the next time we come back, he will make us something completely different. I have heard that a very loyal customer of his have been back weekly of years and Mr. Tojo San has continued to create something different for him each time.

Our Omakase:

Octopus Salad - I usually don't like octopus because it's always over cooked and it gets very rubbery, not this one! Super tender and juicy. How do you do it??

Sablefish in Mushroom Broth - It came wrapped like a present with parchment paper and raffia around the bowl. The flavours didn't surprise me, but it was good sablefish and the mushrooms were very flavourful.

Dungeness Crab Salad - sweet crab meet with enoki mushrooms, it was tasty but not outstanding.

Zucchini Blossom Tempura stuffed with crab - seriously, I can eat 10 of those.

Geoduck Hand Roll - I used to eat lots of geoduck sashimi as a kid, so this was really enjoyable since it brought back memories, and I haven't had it in a long time.

Uni (sea urchin) with smoked sablefish - this was the BEST uni dish I have ever had. I love uni sushi but was afraid that having it cooked and paired with other flavours would ruin it's oceany sweetness. Boy was I wrong. It was served in a uni shell, and arrived before us smelling like heaven and tasting even better.

Toro Sashimi - tuna belly. What can I say, toro, how I love thee.

Scallop and Crab Sushi - wrapped in egg crepe topped with fish roe. It was a very subtle flavour, the scallops were super sweet

Grilled Halibut Cheek - very succulent

For dessert we had green tea creme brulee, with fruit and a black sesame cracker. It was the perfectly sweet ending to one super decadently awesome meal.

Dining Out: Italian Kitchen

I have been here a few times, and after each time I waver in my opinion. First off, it's modern Italian, which mean it's going to be a little bit if not a lot pretentious depending on what you are used to, and the dishes will have a little twist to then.

The first time I went it was for a late dinner, the place was packed and we waited for a table at the bar, we were eventually forgotten by our hostess and ended up ordering and eating at the bar. Among our selected dishes were the beef carpaccio and spaghetti with Kobe beef meatballs. The beef carpaccio was excellent with the cheese, but what a waste of Kobe beef by turning them into meatballs. It really just destroys all that is good about Kobe beef. It was decent food, but I was not overly impressed based on my expectations for the price tag.

The second visit for dinner was involuntary with a large group of people. The service was much better, it was earlier in the evening so our waitress had more time for the little details. But again, the food was not exceptionally good.

The one time that I did receive good service and truly enjoyed the food was at lunch. Unfortunately I don't think these dishes are on their menu anymore. The prawn and corn risotto was a special, and at last check, they no longer have anything like the seared sablefish salad with roasted potatoes on the menu.

Italian Kitchen

Dining Out: Kingyo

This place has seriously tasty food, and out of all the other Izakayas, it's tops on my list on decor. Walking in I'm immediately transported to Japan. Other than the itty bitty English on the menu, I really can't tell that I'm in Vancouver.

Salmon Carpaccio. It was slightly over seasoned but the fried garlic really hit the spot.

Giant Croquette

Hot Stone Bowl Rice

Stone Grilled Beef Tongue. Cook your own beef tongue on the hot rock then drown it in the yuzu hot pepper sauce.

Charmingly presented frozen grapes on a stick at the end of our meal.

871 Denman St.
Vancouver BC

Dining Out: Guu

When I first moved to Vancouver from Toronto, I was blown away by all the different kinds of Japanese food that I can have at my leisure picking. It was certainly most delightful to discover the Izakaya scene. I managed to try just about every one of them in the downtown vicinity in a very short time.

The perennial favourite for me is still Guu with Garlic (on Robson). Sure, there are the gyozas at Gyoza King (not the best ones, but that's an other post), the hot stone beef tongue at Kingyo (great fun), and the very memorable tempura roll at Hapa (think of your favourite yummiest sushi roll, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried). Yet the only one that I keep going back to is Guu with Garlic. There are other Guu locations and menus vary slightly. The one in Gastown has more Westernized seating, you actually get a chair. Guu on Thurlow has the worst seating of them all, a little bench to almost prop yourself steady. I'm not used to that.

On to the food, my favourites include the following:

- Any of the Sashimi that's on special
- Grilled Black Cod with miso sauce
- Ebi Mayo. This is served everywhere, but it's still the best here.
- Kimchi Udon. I'm usually not a Kimchi fan, yet I will gladly eat this with pleasure.
- Unagi hot stone bowl rice. Guu in Gastown serves their verson with cheese, so.good.
- Dikon Salad - after all that heavy stuff, you'll want something light

Of course, I alway order all the other things that's not on the regular menu. It's the opportunity to try all the other stuff that gets me excited to go back. Not to forget about the drinks, because traditionally, that's what Izakayas are all about. Other than the usual beer and sake suspects, Guu in Gastown has the most variety of alternatives, look out for fun and fruity cocktails with cute Japanese names.

Reservations are HIGHLY recommended. Or go early for the first seating.

P.S. There's one in Toronto now. Go give it a try.

Guu Robson
1698 Robson St
Vancouver BC

Guu Gastown
105 - 375 Water St
Vancouver BC

And other locations

Road Trip

Other than mountains, all these things can also be found in the Alberta Rockies.

Dining Out: RauDZ Regional Table

I was hoping to find a place like this in Kelowna, a refreshing break from all the franchise dining and dishes that would rise above the rest of the city's offerings. Continuing with my hopes, which were moderately high, I wanted to find an establishment that prepares fresh delicious food with creativity, in a kitchen which I can see, served in a room with comfortable warm decor, and by friendly staff with un-fake enthusiasm and warm smiles.

As soon as we walked in I had a feeling that this was going to be a good dinner. I was eyeing the wonderful looking plates of other people's dinner around me as our hostess led us to our comfy booth, which coincidently was located by the kitchen and gave me a good view of all the action. (If I can sit IN the kitchen, I would. It's so entertaining.) We had a hard time deciding what to order, we wanted to try everything. Our strategy evolved to picking dishes with lots of veggies without eating vegetarian dishes. So we started with the special - grilled asparagus with truffled aioli and parmesan tuile. This was devoured.

Our mains arrived looking and tasting spectacularly. Cannelloni - house smoked salmon, sauteed prawns, wilted greens, prawn & Okanagan spirits brandy sauce, and Ling Cod - prosciutto & sage wrapped, prawn & green basil risotto, glazed carrots. We didn't realize we had ordered two fish dishes, but it all tasted just as good as it looks. And I think the chef had a healthy supply of micro greens, that or we just happened to order all very green dishes.

Steamed milk and hot chocolate, served with a petite chocolate sandwich amaretti cookie. The small touches such as the little cookie really lifts your spirits.

Our dessert, the signature RauDZ dessert - double chocolate mashed potato brioche, raspberry sorbet, warm chocolate sauce. After we took our first bites our waiter came over and asked, "how's your mashed potatoes?" It was heavenly.

What made it extra memorable and caused me to want to come back again? We were surprised with lollies from the pastry chef at the end of our meal! We happily sucked on our Green Apple Ginger suckers while walking off our very full tummies back to our hotel.

1560 Water Street
Kelowna, BC
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