March 29th was a rainy afternoon which I had free. I took the bus to the end of Robson by Denman. I walked back the rest of the way and recorded some these of clips to share. It was just cloudy originally, but then the rain started to come down by the end of this video. I ended up ducking into a Starbucks and waited for the rain to let up after. Today’s West End Robson Street has always been home to neighbourhood shops. However, it is increasingly becoming a magnet for relatively affordable ethnic food. With all the English language colleges downtown, there is an increasing international student population in the Downtown core. Most of these Internationals are Koreans and Japanese. Thus, you will notice a huge representation of Korean and Japanese restaurants dotted along this stretch of Robson. No complaints here. I love all the food that this student population has induced here along Robson. Favourites in this part of town include Jang Mo Jib, Shantouka Hokkaido Ramen, Hapa Izakaya, Sura Korean, and Beijing Restaurant (it’s actually a Korean restaurant bearing a Chinese name). There’s also Kintaro Ramen, Zakkushi, and Kingyo which are all on Denman, but are very close to Robson Street. Rebuild the parking lot and put up foodie paradise!


Toronto 2013 – College Street at Night

For my last night in Toronto, I stayed at Planet Traveler hostel. It’s on College Street near Augusta Avenue and just at the edge of the Kensington Market.  I do recommend staying here.  The shared accommodation is cheap, clean and comfortable.  It has the 3 C’s of hostelling that are hard to come by.  It has free WiFi and free breakfast.  Hard to go wrong with free breakfast.  I just needed the one night, so I only got to know my roommates for a short while.

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Quebec City – Outside the City Walls/À Centre-Ville

There is obviously more to Quebec City than just Vieux-Quèbec, or Old Quebec.  The Old City is what draws everyone to Quebec for all it’s beauty and history.  However, one can and should venture beyond the city walls a little bit.

One evening, we left the Old City to grab some food. We had just trekked along the Governors’ Promenade and cut through the snowy Plains of Abraham.  So we found ourselves on Grande-AlléeGrande-Allée starts from the entrance of Vieux-Quebec.  It’s probably how a lot of tourist first enter Old Quebec.  Just outside the walled city and the Quebec Parliament buildings are a whole row of restaurants and night clubs.  This area is Quebec City’s entertainment district.

In addition to the night clubs, you can find a Chez Ashton and St. Hubert.  Those are more regular run-of-the-mill Quebecois eateries.  However, if you really want to dress to the nines, then the lounges and clubs are here.  I’m sure my winter boots would be a fashion faux-pas in most of these places.

A lit-up classic Fiat along Grande-Allée marks one such drinking establishment.  A steady stream of taxis were dropping off patrons in their cocktail dresses.  Yep.  I’m pretty sure my red Sears-bought winter coat will not pass the hostess.

Apart from Grande-Allée, I also ventured into another part of downtown Quebec, or Centre-Ville.  I never stopped in Carré d’Youville, but as I passed by on the bus, it looked like a shopping area with a shopping mall on one side of the square.  Just past Carré d’Youville and Avenue Honoré-Mercier, there are the roads of Rue Saint-Jean and Rue D’Aiguillon.  These two roads had a collection of shops and restaurants. I only had 20 minutes or so on my last day in Quebec City to wander these streets, but I would have liked to spend more time here.  It’s more of a place that the locals frequent.  Vieux-Quebec is more of a tourist area and these streets felt much more local and more authentic.

Karaoke and Restaurants

Can we ban karaoke in restaurants? I just returned from an aural assault on my Chinese dinner. I shouldn’t be all that surprised, though. There was a large party of like 18 tables at this Chinese restaurant. They were celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival (which was this past Wednesday). They were from a Village Society of some sort. I’m not sure what they’re official English name is, but I’ll just call them the Village Society for now.

Anyway, they had constant karaoke in the background. Many of them were old popular Cantonese songs. It’s not so bad to hear it if the singers are good. A couple of them were, but the occasional not so good one would step up to the microphone. I definitely had that muted hearing feeling known as temporary threshold shift after leaving the restaurant.

I am one for keeping karaoke in private rooms instead of in entire restaurants.

Portland – Dining in Portland

I was not expecting originally to blog on dining in Portland, but we had a couple of good meals and that made all the difference.  One meal was at the Urban Farmer at The Nines.  The other was at Henry’s Tavern on the edge of the Pearl District.

Urban Farmer - a modern American steakhouse
Urban Farmer – a modern American steakhouse

Urban Farmer describes itself as a modern American steakhouse.  It definitely does not feel like a steakhouse inside.  It feels more like a contemporary lounge/bar deal.  It’s situated in the atrium of The Nines in Portland, so it feels very open and expansive.  The restaurant service is not restricted to these tables.  You can also order food at the sofas and lounge chairs just outside the main part of the restaurant.  The idea was to create a Roman piazza kind of feel.  However, there’s nothing really Roman about the decor; it’s all chic and modern.

We got back to the hotel just in time for happy hour.  Almost all the restaurants in downtown Portland have a happy hour between 4-6pm.  We were originally going to go out and scrounge up some food.  Since it was happy hour, though, we thought this would be a good chance to try out the Urban Farmer.  I wasn’t expecting much of the food there except for the higher price tag.  We ordered some of the happy hour appies to get us started.

Chicken Croquette

The Chicken Croquette a new special that the new chef was introducing and was recommended by our server, Patrick. It was drizzled in a tangy plum sauce. After a few bites, though, this croquette was quickly devoured, but very tasty.

Wagyu Beef Slider

The Wagyu Beef Slider was a little bit of a waste of Wagyu beef in our opinion. Wagyu beef is basically like Kobe beef. Kobe beef is a very pricey specialty. To put it in a burger format like the slider was a little much. It was tasty, but you couldn't tell that it was any different from any ground beef.

Fresh Oysters

The Fresh Oysters were piece de resistance of the 3 appetizers. It was very fresh. Patrick said these oysters were harvested from Puget Sound. We noted how large the oysters were compared to oysters we had had back home. The happy hour price of US$2 was a steal for these shellfish.

Pacific Oyster Entree

We enjoyed the 3 oysters from our appetizers so much that we ordered the full Pacific Oyster Entree. Unfortunately, it was already past 6pm and we had to pay the full US$15 for this dish, but it was oh so good. The oyster taste was not drowned out and the lemon and sauce added a sweet tang to it all.

We still had plenty of room for more, so we ordered two dessert dishes.  This one was the Banana Cream Pie.

We still had plenty of room for more, so we ordered two dessert dishes. This one was the Banana Cream Pie. The name sounds totally unassuming, but the presentation was top notch. The thinly-sliced dehydrated banana propped up within the coffee ice cream was a classy touch. Cream Pie seems so simple, but doing simple well is what makes this dessert so good. The crust was not heavy nor overly fluffy. It held a solid consistency which was pleasant in the mouth. The banana custard on the inside started to ooze out as I cut in open, but mixed beautifully with the cream and the crust.

Our server, Patrick, once again made a recommendation.

Our server, Patrick, once again made a recommendation. This Vanilla Souffle also looks unassuming, but it was simply to die for. Patrick placed it on the table and quickly proceeded to open up the souffle and poured a warm vanilla liquid into it. There must be something about getting the timing and temperature right. The souffle melted in my mouth. I was very impressed by this dish. Kudos to the dessert chef on this one. If you ever go to the Urban Farmer at The Nines, you must try the Vanilla Souffle.

Our neighbouring table also had an interesting dessert.  It was Carrot Cake.  Again, it sounds simple and basic, but the presentation was astounding.  It was a three-part dessert with the carrot cake itself, a carbonated carrot juice drink, and an ice cream on the side.  Our neighbours had read about the dessert in The Oregonian, but they didn’t think much about the taste, but definitely appreciated the presentation.

Henrys Tavern
Henry’s Tavern

Henry’s Tavern was just a restaurant we walked into somewhat randomly.  We got boot off the Streetcar because the car was going out of service.  We walked for several blocks and were quite hungry because it was around 8pm.  We found a restaurant on the tourist map from the info centre and decided to make a B-Line for it.  After a 10-15 minute walk, we arrived at Henry’s Tavern.  At 8pm, it was still very busy, which boded well for us.  We got a table fairly quickly and ordered our food.

We got the customary bread right after we ordered.  For a restaurant of this size, I would have expected a better choice of bread.  It was very, very plain bread.  It was a sliced bun, but it tasted like only a step above Wonder bread.  The butter was also a wrapped packet of butter from Seattle.  It was almost what you would expect at a highway diner.  Thankfully, the bread seemed to be the worst of the meal.

Henry's Tavern - Blue Cheese Steak

We had a Blue Cheese Steak. This was amazingly really good. The steak was a perfect medium rare and the blue cheese added a special unique flavour. It really helped to bring out the taste of the steak.

The other dish was a Beef Tenderloin Strips.  This was good as well at the start, but it did not have the same true beef taste as the Blue Cheese Steak.  Also, as I ate more of the strips, I noticed just how salty the sauce was.  You could start feeling the salt content by the time I finished the strips.  The mashed potatoes on the side were helpful in helping to dilute the saltiness, though.

There was no room for dessert on this night.  We were just way too full because we forgot how large American portions are compared to some of our Canadian portions.  It was a pleasant night out and the streetcar wasn’t showing up any time soon (I don’t like waiting over 10 minutes for any transit), so we walked off our meal.  It wasn’t all that far in the end.  15 minutes was all it took to get back to The Nines.  Besides, I got in at least one nice photo of a Portland sidewalk 🙂

Illuminated glass sidewalk tiles in Downtown Portland

Illuminated glass sidewalk tiles in Downtown Portland