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Tamarind Hill on Lonsdale Avenue, North Vancouver

Everyday Friday Suanne and I go out for dinner just by ourselves. We leave the boys at home. They are happy to get rid of us, just as long as they get to play the PS3 and hog the computers. They appreciate time away from us as much as we do them. They think we don’t know but I know they practice wrestling moves with each other at home. When we are at home, we forbade the boys from strangling each other blue. Nanzaro especially, is a wrestling nut and is totally addicted to everything wrestling. I don’t know what to do with him really. He just loves that barbaric sport. He knows every wrestlers name and can even describe their outfit down to how many loops of shoe laces they wear.

But last Friday, Nanzaro decided to gatecrash our Friday dinner. As soon as he heard that we are going to the new Tamarind Hill restaurant, he decided to hang out with us instead of his ko-ko (older brother).

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Logistically, it was going to be difficult. I would get off back from Burnaby, drive back to Richmond to pick Suanne and Nanzaro up and then on to North Vancouver. Believe it or not, that is almost 90km round trip! And you know how bad Friday traffic could be.

So we decided to try using the new Canada Line instead.

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I bet you remember of the lines on the first day of service when rides were free. People are mad enough to wait up to 3 hours in line to get on the train. Crazy!

Well, my dear son was one of those crazy folks. Nanzaro went with his best friend and his dad to catch that free ride. They waited for 1.5 hours at the Lansdowne Station and then gave up. So Nanzaro was glad we are taking the train. It was rather confusing using the machines when Suanne insisted on using her FareSaver as part payment. Translink ticket machine is not some of the easiest to use if you ask me.

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We met up at the Station by the River Rock Casino. They have free parking for now. Even though it is free, there were lots of spaces left in the multi-storey park and ride. I expected that a lot more people would have use the park and ride. Anyway, come Sep 8, they will charge $2 for parking.

I was not too impressed with the Canada Line. The cars we were in had too few seats. Almost 1/3 the train was a big empty standing only area. I realize that they did it that way because this line goes to the airport for baggage lugging passengers too. I noticed that the stations were designed just to fit the existing configuration of four cars. I would have thought that they would have built the platforms longer in case they need to extend it someday.

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The best part of the journey is taking the seabus to North Vancouver. For those of you who had never been to Vancouver, the Seabus is the cheapest harbour cruise here. I always recommend visitors to try take the seabus. I am not sure what the fare is for the two-zone ticket … $4?

Vancouver is simply stunning viewed from the Burrard Inlet.

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We took the connecting bus on Lonsdale Quay. It was just 5 minutes to the Tamarind Hill.

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The Tamarind Hill is the newest Malaysian restaurant in Metro Vancouver. This is opened by the same people who also owns the Tamarind Hill restaurant in New Westminster. We had been to the Tamarind Hill in New West and we loved their food.

We found out about this new restaurant because the owner wrote informing us about it. They knew we had a positive review of our visit to their New West restaurant. Suanne and I decided that we go visit them incognito and unannouced — just to please you all readers.

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The North Van restaurant is smaller than the one in New West. OK the picture above shows empty tables but it was at that time when that section was just cleared of customers that I managed to take a sneak shot. I was surprised that they have so many customers even though they were opened for just a few weeks. And it was quite glaring that we were the only Asian customers that evening. I remembered that restaurant in New West too has lots of white customers too which led me to think that Malaysian cuisine appeals to non-Asian too despite its spiciness.

They have an extensive wine list but we do not drink. The decor is red-brownish with roughly the same sort of theme as I vaguely recall in the New West restaurant. It is decidedly Oriental even Arabic, but certainly not Malaysian for sure. Even the piped music is western. All these do suggest to me that they try to target the non-Asian segment as their customer base.

But that’s about it. Am glad to see that the food is very authentic Malaysian and every bit as good as the ones in the Tamarind Hill in New West.

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I ordered the Curry Lamb ($13.60). It is described on the menu as boneless lamb marinated with ground fennel and Malaysian curry, slowly simmered in coconut with fresh onions, garlic, cloves, cinnamon and coriander.

I really have to give this a thumbs up. It has a …
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Thomas Haas on Harbourside Drive, North Vancouver

Angie from seasaltwithfood invited Polly and I for a get together at Thomas Haas in North Vancouver.  Polly and I seldom venture so far for our cake meet although Thomas Haas has been on our list of places to visit, we have yet to travel so far for dessert.  But for Angie’s sake, we made the trip to North Vancouver.  If I remembered clearly, our last cake meet with Angie was at La Petite France last November.

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Thomas Haas is located in a kind of industrial area with a private school just across it.  It’s kind of out of the place for a dessert place but believe it or not, this is a very busy outlet.  Customers were taking advantage of the great spring weather to enjoy their dessert at the patio.

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Thomas Haas is a chocolatier who believe that passion and integrity is the essence for true artisan craftsmanship.  They showcase their art piece right at the front counter.

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Being passionate with their chocolate, they have quite some varieties of truffles and chocolate pieces on their display counter.  But we are not really into chocolate but more for their cakes.

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Besides chocolates, Thomas Haas also have a wide range of pastries …

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… and cakes.  We love this place already. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Kash Cool Restaurant in North Vancouver

Updated: 17th Feb 2011: This restaurant had closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Hi All: I wanted to let you know that I had feedback from a few readers (Iranian and also non-Iranian) that some of the comments I had made on this post is generalizing, disrespectful and particularly hurtful. I had considered the feedback and re-read carefully what I had written. I do agree that some of the words were totally misplaced and that it could be interpreted as disrespectful, particularly to the Iranian community. For that I do sincerely apologize to each and everyone of you who felt offended. I want to admit that I had been insensitive in the poor choice of words used. It is very important to me (Ben) that I set things right. As such, I had made amendments to this blog entry by removing those words. Again my sincere apology!

If there is one major cuisine that I have never tried before, it is Persian cuisine. This is despite that there is actually quite a large Iranian community here in Vancouver, particularly in North Vancouver. My personal impression about Iranians in Vancouver is that they are either very rich or that they are great Java programmers. LOL! This is because ALL of the leads programmers (I had three of them!) I had on my project teams were Iranians.

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There was this day when I had to go the North Shore, I thought I should take the opportunity to try out Persian food … and I wanted to have real, authentic Iranian Cuisine. So, I asked Kazem who works in my company for a recommendation. Without any hesitation … he said Kash Cool.

Kash Cool is located on Pemberton in North Vancouver. Even though I have not been to North Van for, oh, 5 years already, it was easy to find Kash Cool. We met up with Angie (of Sea Salt With Food) and her kids for lunch here.

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Before I went, I asked Kazem for recommendations since the only Persian food I know of is Lubria Polo which Suanne had blogged before. Kazem was giving me names that simply confuses me. So, I got him to write down his recommendation on a piece of paper for me to bring to the restaurant.

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Kash Cool does seem very authentic. They have a little fish pond right in the middle of the dining room. I find it kind of cool since most restaurant will maximize the floor space with dining tables. I later learned that having a pool with red fishes are very common in Iranian home’s front courtyard.

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Kazem told me that the owner decorated the entire place himself. There are a lot of large painting and sculptures everywhere. I find that very impressive and does think that the owner sure had an artistic flare in him.

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I also noticed there were quite a number of pillars. I think they are mainly for aesthetic purposes. I later found out that pillars are core elements of the Persian architecture.

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I had to ask them why the name Kash Cool. I teased the friendly wait staff if they love money because of the name. She chuckled and told me that Kash Cool is the name of a dish.

We were the only Chinese looking customers there. I initially feared that I might have problems ordering. However, they were extremely helpful and could see that we are unfamiliar with the menu.

However, I also felt uneasy about being pushed. I felt there were an certain unnecessary degree of hardselling. It was when I ordered ONE chicken and ONE lamb and they will repeat TWO chicken and TWO lamb. I then repeated ONE … and they repeated TWO … this went back and forth for like five times. LOL! It sure made me uneasy, awkward and embarassed especially when I had friends there too. More on following page. Click here to continue reading

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Dine Out Vancouver 2008 – The Observatory on Grouse Mountain

Of all the Dine Out Vancouver restaurant we booked in 2008, this one is simply the best — dinner at The Observatory on Grouse.

The prix-fixe dinner is $35 but it not includes the dinner but also the Sky Ride gondola ride up the Grouse Mountain and a show too. I heard that the price also included a sleigh ride and skating on the pond but that we did not try. Considering that a ride up Grouse is about $27, this $35 dinner is simply best value for money.

We went on a Thursday evening and had a table for 5:30PM. The Sky Ride was nothing to shout about because it was absolutely packed with skiers and snowboarders. Each car can pack in 100 people (amazing!) and they made sure they had a full car before they moved. The Sky Ride travels every 15 minutes and just took minutes to get up to the chalet.

The view from the top of the Grouse Mountain were stunning at night. It was clear sky that night which was fortunate seeing how much rain and snow we had the past couple of weeks. This view is what makes Vancouver so beautiful. I can’t think of a place with a setting this this in the world.

The Observatory is located at 3,700 ft is Grouse’s Fine Dining restaurant. We were informed before we went that the dress code is business casual. I think they don’t want to see people walking in with ski boots and jackets (or in summer, shorts and T’s from trekking up the Grind).

We were quite intimidated … the service was impeccable. The people spoke soooo softly and moved sooooo slowly. And we were just rushing from work and got crunched on on the tram ride up. These guys think of everything … took our coats to the cloak room, showed us the way to our table … and reminded us to turn off our cell phones. Now, that I like!

Really, I would describe the service as very polite, soft spoken and they move very … errrr … gracefully, much like a ballet dancer. If not for the fact I was quite hyper from work that day, I would have loved it.

They gave us the table with a great view of the glittering Vancouver downtown. We could see the sun was just about to set. It was really beautiful and just what I needed from another hectic day at work.

I noticed that while it was freezing cold outside, it was warm and cozy here.

The place is unbelievably quiet and not surprising because of the romantic setting. This is not a place for an after work drinks! The only “ruckus” we heard was this family of four celebrating the mummy’s birthday when they sang the birthday song.

The place was not fully booked as we can see quite a few empty tables. About half the tables have views, which was very good considering the fact that many people want to dine here because of the view.

The Observatory had a very extensive wine list … no, it was more like a wine book. We counted — it ran into 24 pages long. The most expensive bottle was $1400 and there are quite a number running above $1K … wow!

We got something considerable cheaper. The Koola cocktail was only $9. Served in a martini glass, it is raspberry with light alcohol.

Suanne had a glass of lemonade.

The Observatory’s house bread was shaped like interconnected leaves and was fresh and warm when served. It really felt it it was just fresh out from the oven. We knew it would be good when we broke it with a crunch. Perfect.

Again, we shared dishes between us. The first appetizer was the Cream of Shallot Soup with pancetta chantilly and orange vincotto (whatever!). It was creamy and rich. Being Asians, the taste of shallot on this soup is really great. Love it.

The Salad of Poached Bosc Pear and Roquefort consists of organic winter greens, candied pecan and pear walnut vinaigrette. Although we are not normally salad types, this was actually good. The blue cheese in this leave a lingering taste mixed with the slight sourness of the dressing and crunch of the candied pecan. I would say that the taste was … explosive!

My Roast Loin of Pork came with spiced pear and parsnip puree, apple grape chutney and sage jus. The pork was moist, juicy with a crusty side — very nice. It was served folded up which makes it easier to cut and eat it “in place” (know what I mean?). Mmmm … mmmm … mmmm

Suanne’s Sea Scallops had butternut squash risotto, carrot blood orange emulsion and some of the prettiest vegetable ribbons we had seen. The scallops were fabulous with its flavour that lingers at the roof of your mouth for quite sometime. Even as it was served, we could smell the aroma of the seared sides of the scallops. This is simply the best that night … the “springiness” of the large scallops balanced quite well by the seared crust. Oh yeah.

The Sticky Toffee Pudding had a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream on top. The pudding was warm and very sweet and when combined with the cold sorbet, it was simply marvelous. It was like something you had to eat with your eyes closed to experience.

The Assiette of Grapefruit was something else. It was a combination of three little desserts made chiefly from grapefruit — a grapefruit tart, a baked yogurt with grapefruit jelly and a Campari granite, sorbet. The sorbet was not bitter and had a crunchy/chewy rind while the pie/bread had a soft custardly filing — nice. To Suanne, this was the best dessert she had in a long time.

After the dinner, we went to the Theatre in the Sky to watch a documentary on British Columbia …

… and took a walk around the chalet. By that time, the slopes were quieter and the crowd somewhat thinning. It was already dark and that is why the sleigh ride had closed. Otherwise, it would have been a great way to end the evening.

The total bill came to $100. For what we had, it was worth every cent. We highly recommend The Observatory on Grouse, especially for those of you who wanted to have a special, quiet, romantic moment.

Again, the Dine Out Vancouver price per person was $35. On their normal Prix Fixe menu, it is $110, albeit the menu is only slightly different. I guess by the time I blogged this, the Dine Out Vancouver is over … but next year, you should make it an attempt to dine here. Don’t bring a group of boisterous friends here … bring someone special.

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