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Belgian Fries on Commercial Drive at 3rd, Vancouver

After dropping the boys off for yet another of their top secret training, Suanne and I decided to go to Commercial Drive. We hardly ever go to Commercial Drive at all. Not sure why though, especially knowing that there are a lot of good eating places here.

While checking out the restaurants along Commercial Drive, we came across Belgian Fries. I remember reading a well researched Foodospohy’s review just a few days earlier. Although the review came out negative from Foodosopher, we went nevertheless. We are not picky eaters and we can’t imagine how bad french fries could get.

I remember reading a lot of other reviews of Belgian Fries and each of them talks about having Poutine. I thought it was kind of funny, odd too, that the Quebec version of french fries is the thing to have in a place called Belgian Fries. On the awning in front, just beside their Belgian Fries banner is the tagline that says “CBC Montreal: Best Poutine in BC”. Perhaps they should name this place the Montreal Poutine or something like that … No? Yes? No?

Anyway, Belgian Fries is located on Commercial Drive at East 3rd Ave.

The interior is bright and spacious. The music is loud. It is definitely a youngster hangout. We felt old in there. We could smell the deep frying from the edge of the restaurant where we park ourselves. One thing that irks me is that the floor is so sticky like they had never mopped this for ages.

They used to be half the size you see in the picture above. I am not sure when they had expanded but looking at this old picture of Belgian Fries, you can just imagine that business must have been very good.

To order, you pay at the counter and they will give you a number. They will call your number once it is ready. This means that they make the fries only on order — which is good.

We got the Montreal Smoked Beef Poutine to share. The large one costs $8.50.

It sure looked unhealthy and I mean very, very unhealthy. It also looked very delicious and I mean very, very mouth watering.

We had a way to eat this. You really need a strategy because it could get very messy. We started off by … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Damien’s Real Belgian Waffles in Steveston Village, Richmond

Just last week, I blogged about our breakfast at the Cafe Medina. One of the more popular items at Cafe Medina is their Belgian waffles which is not surprising given that it is a Belgian owned restaurant. In that blog post, Jonnek responded in a comment informing us that there is a Belgian waffle place in Steveston. That reminded us of the post we read just weeks ago from Yum-O-Rama of that same place.

What we learned about this unassuming place was surprising. Read on …

It is called Damien’s Real Belgian Waffles. It is located in the picturesque Steveston Village in Richmond. More precisely, it is on Chatham and No 1 Road, just slightly to the west of No 1 Road.

The sign outside is so small that you can’t pick up the name Damien written on the logo of a boy holding a waffle. We learned later that the name and the logo does not matter as much. It is the words “Real Belgian Waffle” that is more important.

Since it was just a short drive from our home and I was not working on Friday, we decided to go to Damien’s for breakfast after our boys went to school. Damien opens at 9AM and so we went close to their opening time so that we can get freshly made waffles.

It was a bright spacious place with a few tables scattered in a smallish eating area. We could see way to the back where Philippe and Miho Leroux were working. Damien’s does not look like they have lots of customers coming for breakfast here. As a matter of fact, we were the only customers.

With no walkin customers other than us, we were kind of surprised to see them making hundreds of waffles.

Their offerings are mainly waffles. Anyway we were there for the waffles only.

I opted for the Breakfast Waffle combo. For $5, I get to choose one waffle from a selection which includes … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Cafe Medina on Beatty Street, Vancouver

Life is good — especially not having to work on Fridays.

So, after the boys went to school, Suanne and I went to have a real nice breakfast. I just love those unhurried mornings. It is unhurried because it felt like a bonus day off and I had nothing specifically I need to do.

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The Medina Cafe is located just next door to the Belgian restaurant, Chambar (our previous reviews here and here). The address is 556 Beatty Street and is just outside from the Stadium Skytrain Station.

Look at the stacks of food by the window (above). That is what Medina Cafe is known for … Belgian Waffles.

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Suanne and I went to the Medina Cafe. We had been wanting to go there for a long time but could not because … well … it is not exactly a conducive place for a family breakfast. I don’t know, I felt it has a Parisian Cafe feel to it.

The Medina Cafe is super busy. They will only take reservations for parties of six or more. So if you are in a smaller party of six, you could be in for a wait during mid mornings on weekends. I have heard that waits could be up to 1 hr.

We did not have to wait. We were early. Moreover, it was on a Friday. But we got a really crappy table. It was the only one clean and it was by the door. So, each time someone walks through the door, the freezing draft hit us directly. We had our coat on the whole time.

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Suanne had coffee — the largest 16oz Latte which is $3.60. The latte was … well just latte. I had always wanted to learn how to do that fern thingy.

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I tried to be fancy right?  So without knowing what it really is, I ordered the Moroccan Mimosa.

The menu said that it is “Fresh OJ infused with cinnamon and fig”. No mention of alcohol.

Mimosa as I learned later is a mix of orange juice and champagne. Not nice. I did not like it. I just felt that liquor and orange juice is not a good mix. But I finished it nevertheless. The reason is simply because this is $8.

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The Medina Cafe serves breakfast and lunch only. Breakfasts starts at 9AM to Noon while lunch is from Noon to 3PM (4PM on weekends).

The menu is not very big. Two columns … one for breakfast and one for lunch. That’s it. But each item is interesting and so it was hard to choose.

Service wise, not good. They are busy and you need to flag them down if you wanted anything extra. But when you got their attention, its OK.

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As simple and humble the Belgian Waffle is, this is the hero of our breakfast. This is what we were here for. It is $3.15 for the waffle and an extra $1 for the fig orange marmalade.

But the waffle is so … More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – Chambar

I had been to Chambar twice before with the last time during last year’s Dine Out Vancouver. However, this year, I decided to go there again because Suanne had never been there before and wanted to try their famous mussels.

Chambar is a Belgian restaurant located on Beatty St just outside that Stadium Skytrain station in Vancouver. Our reservation was for 5PM. By the time we arrived 5 minutes before, many had arrived earlier and waited at the lounge. We can see that Chambar is perhaps one of the most popular DOV venue.

We got seated in the inner dinner hall which I preferred because it is wider and had a big window (not that there is a view from it anyway). One thing you will notice about Chambar is that the walls are decorated with art pieces which they help local artists showcase their work.

Just a couple of tables away was a group three Asian diners who also whipped out cameras and took pictures of their food. For a moment, we were wondering if they are one of food bloggers we know. We tried to establish eye-contact but failed. I thought it will be great to say hi to bloggers.

Oh, we were also told that we had only 1.5 hours for DOV. We understand the reason why.

Since this is a Belgian restaurant, I chose a Belgian beer. They had a good selection Trappistes beer which is renowned to be “all one needs” and are known to be brewed in monasteries by monks. I got myself the Rochefort 8 which is 9.2% alcohol. Small bottle but packs quite a punch.

For the appetizer, we had the La Salad d’Hiver. This is a Belgium endive and watercress salad with cranberry and vanilla vinaigrette. Stacked up high and had fresh crunch but otherwise, it was pretty tasteless save for the vinaigrette.

The next appetizer is one of the most interesting we ever had. It’s called the Carpaccio de Chevreuil. It is very thinly sliced (but also salty) venison and served together with crispy golden Yukon potatoes and roasted garlic and horseradish tapenade. Together they pack a good mixture of texture.

My main was the Truite et Ravioli. It is basically a trout and ravioli dish. The trout was crusted with absinthe butter while the pepper and goat cheese ravioli was roasted. It was quite bland. Frankly, this was not the star of the meal.

The star of the meal is none other than the Mussels Congolaise. It came in a big pot with a lid that you use to discard the shells.

The mussels were cooked with a tomato coconut cream, smoked chili and lime. We ordered a bread roll ($3!) as a side to dunk. It’s such a waste for good soup. Bread should be free especially with this.

And the mussels were simply the fattest, juiciest we had ever tried. I had mussels in Chez Leon in Brussels just last year and there is simply no comparison to good old Vancouver mussels.

Since I had been raving about the frites I had in Brussels, Suanne wanted to see what the fuss is even though we know this is really Vancouver fries. It was pretty much the same as any fries we had locally. This small cup is $5.

Pot de Creme is a green tea (Matcha) pot de creme and topped with lemon sable & blueberry compote. It was light and not overly sweet.

The Belgian Waffle was served warm and crispy and topped with homemade vanilla ice-cream and warm chocolate sauce.

In all, this is about the only DOV dinner that we came away absolutely full. There were a lot of food partly because of the extra pomme frites and bread roll we ordered. That big pot of mussels did help too. This is a $25 per person plate. The total bill came up to $83.

We like Chambar because of the reasonable prices. You should go try their mussels. I think you will like it.

Chambar on Urbanspoon

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Brussels Series: Dinner at the Plattesteen

One of the form of transportation within Brussels is thru what is known as the Premetro. It is narrow tram operating in an underground railway track. I find it so odd, the shape of the tram — it does not look like a good design for maximizing passenger load. It does actually feel like getting on a narrow bus that runs on underground tracks.

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Anyway, I was looking forward to trying a Belgian food called “stoemp avec saucissen”. The guidebook recommended a family restaurant called the Platessen and that serves old-fashioned Belgian food like the way they make it at home.

This family restaurant happens to lie in the middle of the gay neighborhood (“not that there is anything wrong with that”). I was determined to try stoemp that I went anyway. Oh yeah, there are a lot of guys on the streets and I kept my eyes to the pavement most of the time. I was afraid of the accidental eye contact … “not that there is anything wrong with that”.

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I don’t know if I made a mistake coming in here. Hmmm … I saw two burly man kissing each other in the lips (“not that there is anything wrong with that”). Also, right across from my table was another guy eating alone. I swear he was watching me. :-0

I looked around the restaurant for the tell-tale rainbow flag. Nope, none around.

Oh, guess what … the waiter told me that they don’t serve Stoemp that night. Shoot! Since it was quite late already and I had no Plan B for dinner, I decided to stay on.

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Another excellent baguette for starters. Hey, I learned that the lifespan of a good baguette is only 4-6 hours. No wonder the baguettes that we bought from the stores for the next morning tastes so unexciting. Since this trip, the baguettes at home that is older than 6 hours are to be classified as “leftovers”. :-)

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The waiter recommended the Kriek Beer. It’s a Belgian beer fermented with sour cherries and has a nice sweet flavour.

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Oh … I can’t remember the name of this pate that I had. I can’t remember how it tastes too. Oh well, it had been three weeks since I had this meal.

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And this is some steak I had. I always had it medium-rare and so this must have been medium-rare. I remember the flavoured butter that sits on top of the warm steak. It did not melt it entirely but just enough to melt a little flavour on the meat.

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This is how I ate it. I cut a bit of the butter (which I swear tastes like blue cheese) and eat it together with each mouthful of steak. Is this how it is normally eaten?

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Alrighty … this meal costs 23.60 Euros. Price is quite OK I would think. Too bad I did not get the chance to taste Stoemp. Does anyone know where I could try that in Vancouver?

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Brussels Series: Manneken Pis, Snails and Amaretto

Sometimes one can know the character of a city just by observing the people going about doing their business. I can relate to a city like Brussels. This city is well maintain, clean, graffiti free and have very little vagrants. The subway felt bright and safe.

I stumbled on the Parc du Bruxelles while trying to look for the Unknown Soldier Panorama. I must have made a wrong turn somewhere and came upon this place. I enjoyed this park. In a cold early spring weather, there are quite a lot of people running during their lunch break. It reminds me a lot of Vancouver where when the weather is good, people do don their running gears and go for a run.

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In every European city, there is a cathedral at the center of the city. Brussel’s cathedral is called the St Michael and Gudula Cathedral. I had seen enough of churches already and gave this a miss.

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Brussels is a compact city. I came across the Manneken Pis again. Since there are better light this time, I took out my long lens and managed to get a closer shot of the famous sculpture. Sometimes they do dress up the Manneken Pis in costumes but not this time.

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For some reason, all tourist must make it a point to seek out this bronze sculpture. Many tourists are disappointed to find how small the Manneken Pis is.

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I was told that for a truly adventurous food, I should go to the Stock Exchange Building, Buers. This is a major meeting place just like the Trafalgar Square in London, although much more smaller. I spent some time looking for the Jet et Fils stall and found what I was looking for … caracoles!

It’s quite a run down stall from where I bought this. The lady asked if I wanted it to go and when I said yes, she gave me the snails in an old recycled jam jar! Yucks! I was just thinking if they have cleaned it enough.

It came with a lot of soup … hot and peppery. The soup was warm and pretty good in a cold spring day. But it does look like some brackish water though. Doesn’t it look like these snails have been scooped up from the bottom of a river?

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These snails does taste better than the ones I had in Paris. It is much fleshier and had been de-shelled. The meat is springy. I like this. Price? 3.50 Euros.

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On the way back to the hotel, I wanted to stop and get a cup of coffee. I stopped by a department stall called Hema which is a Dutch chain.

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I ordered an Amaretto coffee. I am not sure how to describe this. It sure looked very good, doesn’t it? It had a rich coffee base with a thick layer of foam and topped with some “stuff”. I think they added some syrup called Amaretto, hence the name. This did not come with a biscuit but a chocolate egg.

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Brussels Series: Breakfast at the Grand Place

Woke up extra early today. I think I have adjusted to the time zone and all the walking the past one week. I must have walked at least 10 kilometers every day since I started from London. Also, I have stopped noticing how heavy my backpack had been. Oh … I am beginning to feel homesick!

I thought I start off the day in the Grand Place and have a look at it under dry weather. I was pretty sure there are some places that I can have breakfast around the area.

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I found this place just off the Grand Place for breakfast. What do Belgians normally have for breakfast? My impression is that Belgian breakfasts consists of waffle. Oh well … waffles sounds OK for me.

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This is a warm and bright place. I can see lots of tourists having their breakfast here — it’s because almost every table have either a map, a travel guide or a camera on the table.

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I ordered a glass of orange juice and a coffee. I normally just order either or but this time I had both. I realize I had not been drinking as much as I should the past few days. I do feel parched by the time I got back to my room everyday. One thing about drinking water … don’t get your drinking water from the convenience store or stations as they are more expensive in those places. Often, if you find a local store or supermarket, that is the best place to get them. I also have a stash of snacks — something sweet and something salty.

One thing I noticed about coffee in Europe — they always come together with a small piece of biscuit.

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So, I guess this is the traditional type of waffle that Belgians take. Plain waffle with just icing sugar. This one is very light and hardly what I call a breakfast. The two drinks and the waffle costs about 9 Euros. Expensive, right?

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Brussels Series: Mussels and Frites at Chez Leon

After the Waffle snack (or should I call it a meal?), I went walking about the sidestreets back to my hotel. I am liking Brussels more and more. Oh yeah, it drizzled the afternoon I was there but this is nothing to me because Vancouver at this time of the year rains like there’s no tomorrow anymore. Talking about rain, did you know what the record for continuous days of rain in Vancouver is? 28 days! Oh yeah … 28 days. So, this is like a sunny day to me. :-)

Let’s see … ah … Belgium is famous for it laces. I don’t care much for laces but they look very nice. I bet Suanne would love to have one of the nice lacy blouses. Know how much they cost? 150 Euros! Gosh! BTW, one need to be careful these days buying these lacey products … many of them are manufactured in China … caveat emptor.

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Of course, the other famous product from Belgian is, what else, Belgian Chocolates. There are so many chocolate stores here. Some of the names I could recognize were Guylian, Godiva, and Neuhaus but they are so many others. Most of the chocs are so expensive … and some are so pretty that I will not be able to force myself to eat them.

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There are also Chocolate Truffles. That little box costs about 9 Euros … $12USD / $14CAD.

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Like the Latin Quarter in Paris, there is a street that has a huge concentration of restaurants. I just bumped into this place and oh yeah, perfect … this is where I am gonna have my dinner. Each of them have sign boards that describes their fix price menu. If you end up ordering what is on the board, you’ll be OK. Once inside, they have a “better” menu which could cost a lot more.

Competition is so tough here that they have people standing outside the door trying to get every passerby to go in. They are friendly and polite, don’t get me wrong and can take no for an answer. I like Belgians.

If I am not mistaken, this place is called the Beenhouwersstraat / Rue des Bouchers. This is the place where there is a female version of Manneken Pis. Can’t find it … shoot!

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until I came across the Chez Leon. Oh wow … that is on the list of places I wanted to go and it is here right in front of me without me looking for it. I even stopped to double check against my travel guide to make sure this is the real McCoy. Yup, it is!

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Mussels in Brussels … Brussels is also famous for their Mussels with Fries and this 110 year old restaurant is the place to have them; well, at least for tourists anyway. I was actually quite elated having found this place. The atmosphere is exactly what I find it so “relaxed” and “at home” — I can’t really explain it but I think you know what I mean.

The restaurant is bustling with customers and the waiters and all worked at such brisk pace. The walls are tiled, there are bright neon lights even indoors, and paper table cloth. It has such an informal setting with great food. I was already drooling walking past the other tables.

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I am not a fan of beer but hey, I am in Belgium and it’ll be a waste not to have Belgian Beer. In this small country, there are 150 breweries producing about 500 standard beers. With so much beer, is it normal for a Belgian to go without water in a day and drink only beer? I am just curious.

I ordered the house beer — the la Leon. It is pale, full-bodied and specially concocted to go with Chez Leon’s Mussels. This beer is not served anywhere else, only in Chez Leon. This is great, I like this beer. 3.50 Euros.

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Chez Leon is a large restaurant with many different dining rooms. In each of the dining rooms, there is a central table where they cut up FRESHLY BAKED baguettes. Oh wow, and it is just right in front of me. I asked them for extra baguettes … not exactly sure what it is but I sure love baguettes since I got to Europe.

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Yes siree, it sure was good. The thin crust splinters all over the table and myself as I break them. It was a mess but to me, it’s a sign of a great bread. I had three baskets of bread in all … and it’s all you can eat baguettes too.

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Although their signature dish is the Mussels and Fries, they do have a lot of other seafood dishes. Check out their mouth watering dishes here.

There were so many ways they serve the mussels — there is even a version with curry! I asked the waiter which is the most popular and he told me it is the Moules Meridionnales (Meridional Mussels) which costs 23.85 Euros. So, “Moo Me-ri-dio-na-lay” was what I ordered (is the pronunciation correct?). This is described on the menu as Mussels in onion, tomato, garlic, parsley, herbs from Provence and … fries “at will”.

The pot of mussels is huge (well, all Belgian servings I find are huge). They even gave me two large plates to place the shells. I looked at it and told myself … gosh … this is a lot of work!

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In Vancouver, I love the Mussels from Chambar (see my old blog entry here) where the mussels are bigger and fleshier. Hmmm … Brussel’s mussels are half the size we get in Vancouver. They are delicious though.

Like I said, there were a lot of mussels. I used my fingers to hold the shell and by the time I was done, my finger tip was all “wrinkly” … you know, just like what you get after swimming for a hour? It was that much mussels.

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The best part is the soup. Oh man … I took my own sweet time finishing every drop of it. It was great dunking the baguette into it … absolutely delicious.

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It was a great meal and I enjoyed it a lot. This is highly recommended for everyone who vacations in Brussels. The service was quick and polite which adds so much enjoyment to a great meal.

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