Hy’s Encore Steakhouse and Cocktail Bar – 37 Hornby Street, Vancouver

Hy's Encore on Urbanspoon
I feel very fortunate that both my Father and my Sisters birthdays fall very close to each other. Why? Because it means its an excuse to go out for an expensive dinner that I don’t have to pay for. In addition, since my sister and my dad have no desire to stare at food all day like I do, I get to pick the restaurant! Every year for my birthday I go to Gotham’s because for some reason I have a soft spot for their steak and lobster. Since I didn’t want to repeat the same place I had gone for my birthday, but had to find a place that would accomodate a sister who is a naturopath, a mom who doesn’t eat red meat, a brother and dad who only eat red meat and me who eats everything! I decided to try Hy’s Encore as I had heard good things about it.

The night did not start off well with our waitress spilling water all over our table. The whole table setting had to be removed and reset. It was an unfortunate way to start the birthday celebrations, but the waitress was very apologetic. We asked one of the waiters what a good appetizer would be and were recommended the cheese toast for two ($5.95). Now I dont usually associate fancy steakhouses with cheese toast but after a quick lookup on the internet It was all anyone could talk about when they mentioned Hy’s so we went ahead and ordered two anyway. It had to be good to have made VanMags.Com’s 101 Things To Eat And Drink In Vancouver 2009 list. I wasn’t very impressed with the presentation. It looked soggy and greasy and was served in a bowl with an aluminum foil lining of some sort.

I was pleasantly surprised with the toast. It had a great depth of flavour that I wasn’t expecting. These weren’t your average cheeses on this toast, though I could definitely taste some cheddar. It was delicious, it had been a little overhyped by online reviews, and It was a little bit too oily but how can bread and cheese ever really be bad. According to VanMag.com the cheese toast consists of Parmesan, Romano, Swiss, and medium Cheddar melted over three-quarter-inch slabs of homemade bread, a lot of clarified butter and a dash of Hy’s steak seasoning salt

I ordered my steakhouse staple Steak and Lobster (52.95) your choice of a filet mignon or New York strip steak served with a broiled lobster tail and lemon butter. I prefer filet mignon, and so ordered filet mignon and twice baked and stuffed potato.

This was easily the best steak and lobster I have ever eaten. There was a crispy char on the outside and the inside was cooked to a perfect medium rare. It wasn’t tough at all and just melted in my mouth. The lobster was sweet and though I was disappointed that it was lemon butter and not garlic butter like Gothams, it had incredible flavour so I had no problems with it.. The potato to my surprise was more like a mashed potato with a nice crust on top, beautifully presented. The waiter came out with a cart full of fixing such as sour cream, bacon and chives to put on top.

My sister being the naturopath and trying not to eat “excessive amounts of red meat” decided to also go for a Jumbo Broiled Atlantic Lobster ($52.95) which is broiled and served with lemon butter. 

That lobster really was JUMBO. It was a tad sweeter than mine and pink. The menu said it was atlantic but did not specify what mine had been. She opted for rice as her starch. It looked a little bland.

My brother, just like when he is at gotham’s ,ordered a porterhouse steak. Im glad he had seen 604Munchies blog about their being the possibility of getting an even bigger steak!

He opted for home fries which were good but nothing compared to the twice baked potato.

For dessert they brought out a complimentary chocolate bourbon cake for my sister. It was fudgey and delicious, with a strong bourbon flavour.

They also brought out a plain cheesecake with a strawberry topping for my dad! The cheesecake was the perfect way to end the birthday dinner. I don’t think I could have eaten one more bite.

The meal was incredible and the steak and lobster went aove and beyond my expectations of it. It was very sweet of them to bring two desserts with candles. Details like candles and complimentary desserts on birthdays are what really separate one restaurant from another. I would most definitely go back and might even be changing my standard birthday restaurant from Gotham’s to Hy’s Encore.

Whitecastle – 1930 Michigan Avenue, Detroit

White Castle on Urbanspoon
During our trip to toronto it came to the attention of me and my friends that our beloved Vancouver Canucks were playing the detroit Red Wings only 3 and a half hours south of us. It was unanimously decided that a road trip would have to be made. The decision was last minute and some last minute phone calls were made to workplaces, everyone soon came down with “that 24 hours flu thats been going around”. It was totally worth it. Not only did the Canucks, in true Canucks fashion, tie it with 15 seconds left in the third period and then win it in shootout. LUUUUUUU. I also got to check Whitecastle off the list of restaurants I wish to eat at before I die.

I know it’s cliche but after watching Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle I just had to know  what all the fuss was about. That movie came out in 2004, so this meal had 8 years worth of buildup.

Upon our arrival in detroit we first got lost on our way to Joe Louis Arena and ended up in an area that would less than kosher in my opinion, but on the plus side we eventually ended up at a Whitecastle.

I was mildly put off by the bullet proof glass separating me and the cashier, but nothing was going to stand between me and my cheeseburger sliders. Between the four of us we ordered 10 Regular Hamburger Sliders ($0.69 Each) , 10 Cheeseburger Sliders ($.0.84 Each) two orders of Fries ($1.49), and a Medium Drink. 

You can see form the picture above that a medium drink is GINORMOUS, and the sliders are a decent size.

I started with a cheeseburger slider the buns are very soft and squishy. The cheeseburger was good, a square cutout of meat processed cheese, onions, pickles, and sauce. The onions and sauce really add a great deal to the cheeseburger in terms of flavour.

The regular hamburger just didn’t live up to the salty gooeyness of the cheeseburger. Same ingredients, but no cheese, and everyone knows everything is better with cheese!

The drink was massive, but other than that fountain Coke is Coke no matter which restaurant you are at. The fries were good but no different than a pack of frozen McCain crinkle cut fries. I was full by the end of the meal but wasn’t wowed. It was an inexpensive meal with all four of us eating for around $25 so I definitely have to give credit where credit is due. Whitecastle is good value for your money. It is definitely no In and Out or Five Guys though.

Zak’s Diner – 14 Byward Street, Ottawa

Zak's Diner on Urbanspoon
With one day to roam around Ottawa I decided I would be as touristy as I possibly could. Aside from seeing our nations parliament buildings I most definitely had to check out the Byward Market. Byward Market makes me feel like I am on a small street in paris with its cute little bakeries and street vendors. Except at Byward they are selling maple syrup and fresh fruit, instead of crepes! I am a sucker for diners so I decided on Zak’s Diner right on Byward Street.

The menu is EXHAUSTIVE! This picture was only ONE SIDE! Here is the other one:

The menu had so many interesting items I wanted to try. The best part about having a boyfriend is getting to try twice and many foods as you would usually get to. And having someone to finish it off when you inevitably order too much food because you can’t decide. Between the two of us we split one banana-chocolate milkshake.

One milkshake is $6.50 and with its refill tin it makes exactly two standard size milkshakes. The sever was kind enough to let us know so that we didn’t order two of them. The banana flavour was a little overpowering, but the milkshake was incredibly creamy and rich.

It was only lunch and I had already decided where I wanted to get dessert after so we decided on two sandwiches. Every sandwich at Zak’s is Served with coleslaw and dill and one of the following: Caesar, pasta, greek or garden salad, fries, rings, mashed potatoes or soup. So many choices! We chose a spicy buffalo chicken club with onion rings ($10.99) and a jumbo grilled cheese sandwich and fries which were upgraded to a poutine  for $2.50.

The onion rings were crispy on the outside, sweet on the inside and not too oily. The sandwich was average. It was nice that it was a full white meat chicken breast. Comparable to a Boston Pizza buffalo chicken sandwich but with a soft hamburger style bun.

The grilled cheese sandwich was bland and the bread was incredibly hard. I was a little disappointed by it but the poutine made up for it. There was so much I was barely able to finish it.

All in all it was an okay lunch. I probably wouldn’t go back if I was in Ottawa again. It had a great decor and the staff was very friendly but with so much to see do and eat in Ottawa it wouldn’t be high on my list of priorities.

Smoke’s Poutinerie – 203 Dundas Street East, Toronto

Smoke's Poutinerie on Urbanspoon
On my last night in Toronto I realized I hadn’t eaten at all the places I had hoped to while I was in Ontario. So I set out in search of Smoke’s Poutinerie. It came as a surprise to me that it was actually a franchise! Who knew? i imagined it to be an old school mom and pop run restaurant, maybe even a food cart.

I was SEVERELY disappointed to learn that their microwave had broken down and they were unable to make any of the poutines that required the meat to be warmed. My plan to order a montreal smoked meat poutine went out the window:( I decided to go for a traditional poutine, my brother ordered a curry chicken poutine while my boyfriend ordered a prime beef poutine. Mine consisted of Hand-Cut and Custom Seasoned Fries, Signature Rich Gravy and Quebec Cheese Curds. It was deliciously seasoned and the fires were not soggy, just the way I like it. Unfortunately I thought I was very hungry and ordered a large. I kind of wished the man at the cash register had warned me it was big enough to feed a small country.

Obviously being me I had to taste some of each one. The curry chicken poutine had grilled chicken and a spicy curry sauce. It was okay but it had a strong curry flavour that didn’t really do it for me. As you can see everyone else was smart enough to order a regular size.

The winner of the night would definitely have to have been the Prime beef poutine. With Prime Ground Beef, Sautéed Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions it was sweet and savoury and completely delicious. I was sad I hadn’t chosen it myself. The beef wasn’t the best quality beef I’d ever seen but it was overshadowed by the fact that I LOVE CARAMELIZED ONIONS!!!

I would definitely rank the poutines as follows:

  1. Prime Beef Poutine $6.49/7.99
  2. Traditional Poutine $5.49/6.99
  3. Curry Chicken Poutine 6.99/8.99

The poutines were good, a little overpriced, especially the curry chicken one but i probably could have gotten two meals out of a large so I guess it wasn’t outrageous. I enjoyed myself and I would definitely go back to Smoke’s Poutinerie to try a montreal smoked meat Poutine.

NFA: No Fixed Address Underground Restaurant

This year for my birthday I went to great lengths to get a reservation at NFA. I even booked it in January for a June reservation. Last year’s birthday at 12B had been amazing and I wanted more!  Chef Steve and Chef Todd have very different styles. The atmosphere at Chef Todd’s was laid back and relaxed, wine in mason jars, weirdly shaped table and hearty meat and seafood dishes. Chef steve has a more refined long dark wood table. perfect place settings and a very formal look to his place.

No judgement. I loved the ambiance in both restaurants. They both do their own respective styles very well.

We started with a deconstructed beet salad, with golden and red beets, smoked salmon, avocado, raspberries and slivered almonds. It was to die for. Easily my favorite dish of the night. It was simple and elegant and really surprising to my palate that the flavours went so well together.

The salad was followed by a course of duck breast. The duck was cooked perfectly. The curried lentil underneath wasn’t outstanding but the incredibly succulent duck was more than enough to satisfy me.

The next course was a large serving of Arctic Char in a miso broth. The char was good, nothing special and the miso was flavourful but a little salty. I loved the large portion

There was also an entree of tuna in a lemongrass sauce. The tuna was very good but the lemongrass sauce really stole the show. Despite me DESPISING cilantro it was a very good dish and the little balls on top of the fish were really really good.

The two sweet dishes of the meal included a double chocolate sorbet served in a cute individual spoon serving. The alcohol in the sorbet was very strong and overpowered the delicate flavours in the sorbet.

We ended the night with a creme brulee. I was disheartened to find out out i could not make GIANT creme brulees in my dutch oven that I had received for my birthday. A crushing realization. but nevertheless I ate all of my creme brulee before even thinking about taking a picture of it*oops*. It really was very we done with a perfect crisp exterior. Some of my guests found this dessert to be incredibly alcoholic as well. Chef steve mentioned that he had flavoured it with some sort of alcohol, I enjoyed it, but to each their own!

Overall it was a good night. I was a little disappointed with the food nothing was bad or done poorly but only one dish really blew my mind which was the deconstructed beet salad. I would have prefered for their to be a dish with some sort of red meat. Chef Todd really set the bar very high at my last birthday and though I loved chef Steve’s ambiance and refined style the food was lacking a little something for me.

The Works – 580 Bank Street, Ottawa

The WORKS Glebe on Urbanspoon
While visiting my brother and his lovely girlfriend in Ottawa they decided to take me out for dinner, to make up for the fact that I was actually willingly spending time in Ottawa. Now theres nothing wrong with Ottawa, it just isn’t Vancouver. So we headed out to The Works Burger. I took one look at the menu and knew i was going to have realllll trouble deciding what to order. The menu is HUMONGOUS! They do everything, burgers poutines, fries, shakes, salads you name it, and they have every topping under the sun. I was starving after my flight so we decided to start with an appy while I decided from the never ending list of burgers with funny names. (Don Cherry Burger - sour grapes, moldy cheese & a stale bun…sorry this all-star ego-burger is not available in plaid, stripes or royal blue…Leafs suck, Sens Rule)  I always appreciate a hockey fan, bonus points for the dig on the leafs! We decided on A tower of onion rings for $9.41 before tax, and it comes with 2 dipping sauces, your choice of BBQ Bold – Beechhouse – Chipotle Ketchup – Chipotle Mayo – Crazy Franks – Curry Mayo - Dijon-Haze – Hotter Than Hell – Royal Supreme – Smokey BBQ – Sweet ‘N Spicy – Tzatziki Chill (I told you, waaaay too many choices)

Tower - o - Rings

The onion rings were really good, nice and crunchy, kind of similar to red robins but better:) There were sooo many i ended up saving one to put in my burger.  I finally decided on a burger and a milkshake. After much deliberation I chose Down Under - caramelized onions, fried egg, pineapple, purple beets & gouda…a Kiwi special – $12.28, it came with my choice of sides so I went with fresh cut fries and a medium oreo milkshake.

This milkshake is a force to be reckoned with and I loved the presentation in a measuring cup. easily one of the best milkshakes i’ve ever had. Definitely real oreos in this bad boy. Take a closer look…

The burger was good, no, very good but I dont think I chose the best one on the menu. I chose it because it was a combination of all the things I love in a burger especially the fried egg, but perhaps they dont all go together at once as much as I had hoped they would. My fault. The burger was enouromous! I could barely get my mouth open wide enough to eat it.

Down Under Burger with an added onion ring

I was a little disappointed with my burger choice but the food quality was there and I will definitely be going back next time I’m in the area.

Jethro’s Fine Grub – 3420 Dunbar Street Vancouver

”Jethro’s

I dont consider myself to be a breakfast food kinda girl, with two exceptions 1.) Bon’s off Broadway and 2.) Jethro’s Fine Grub. It’s a great value especially on my student budget! They were recently featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners Drive Ins and Dives, but boy did Guy miss out if he didn’t try their Gold Rush Pancakes. Easily the item that keeps me coming back for more. The downside to Jethro’s is that with such a small place, with such high demand its not uncommon to be waiting 20-45 minutes for a table OUTSIDE. But that isn’t gonna stop me from getting to these pancakes! They are Banana pancakes stuffed with caramel, pecans and streusel. Topped with more caramel, pecans and streusel and whipped butter :)

Gold Rush Pancakes

They have a great menu and every time I am waiting outside I spend the entire time wondering what I should get…But I can’t stray from such a good thing! A coffee and breakfast for two under $15, you just cant go wrong! These Pancakes are SO BIG! I always end up eating for a week! They’re easily reheated in the oven so you can have again for dessert! Be sure to get there ahead of time and dress appropriately for the wait outside in the cold. These pancakes are a MUST TASTE in Vancouver! I will definitely be returning for alligator nuggets!