Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie

As one of the buzziest new restaurants opened in the past couple of years, Bao Bei has long been calling my name. My parents were in town recently and they are both very into all types of Asian cuisine, so I figured the time was right. Like a gift from the universe, the four of us (E joined us) were seated straightaway in a cozy round booth, arguably the best seats in the (gorgeously designed) house. It helped that we were there on a Tuesday evening, since Bao Bei is a reservation-free zone.

My previous pescetarianism was what held me back from visiting in the past, since even the tofu has ground pork sprinkled on top. There is not a lot on the menu for vegetarians or even picky pescetarians such as myself who don't like shellfish. Their website notes that they can easily adjust many menu items to be vegetarian/vegan, but I always hated to be that person.

For better or worse, the constraints on my eating have increasingly fallen away over the past year. The four of us shared one of practically everything on the menu. I sat out the beef tartare and prawn dumplings, and standouts for me included the steamed vegetable dumplings and Shao Bing. Everything was well-received with extra points for creativity and presentation.

E and I each enjoyed a craft cocktail, which we can only assume was what protected us from the stomach upset my parents both suffered the next day. My mom was unfortunately turned off from eating at Bao Bei again, but my dad, nonplussed as ever, said that he would go back because "it was really good." I'm going to give them a mulligan and side with my dad on this one!

Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nicli Antica Pizzeria

When I was 14, I went on a school trip to Italy. My interest in boys not yet burgeoning, I discovered other earthly pleasures such as gelato, which was not yet ubiquitous in Canada. I remember indulging to the tune of four waffle bowls of it in one day, though I paid dearly for it. The other sensory delight I found in Sorrento (just outside of Naples) was the pizza. Oh, the pizza. I don’t really remember what it was like, but I do remember thinking “this is the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.”

Now you can have that same superlative taste experience right in East Van! Check out Nicli Antica Pizzeria on Cordova. They follow special guidelines for authentic Neapolitan pizza, and the results are definitely worth the effort. The crust is best described as evocative of naan, but you’ve got to try it to see what I mean. The Bianca is to die for, as is the tiramisu.

A rather motley crew of us went after our ball game on Monday, and it was so good that I suggested it to another group of friends as we surveyed our dinner options last night. The service can be hit and miss, but that’s certainly forgivable in a relatively new establishment. Any kinks will be ironed out, and I predict this place will have a long and healthy life in East Van.

Nicli Antica Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 8, 2011

Campagnolo Roma

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I’m not really one for Italian food. A, however, newishly transplanted from the West End, has been missing Nook, her favourite little pork-infused hideaway. On a rare evening when the three of us were available (after ditching our boyfriends and coworkers respectively), A, E and I headed to the cozy confines of Campagnolo Roma with our hopes held high. We were not to be disappointed.

The room has been beautifully renovated and you have to look hard for any trace of the strange Jamaican pizzeria that was the previous occupant. I am somewhat sorry that I never made it there, but I'm told I wasn't missing much.

The whipped ricotta appetizer was a revelation that I'm still wistfully phantom-tasting today. No sooner had the first bites passed our lips than we ordered another round. The fresh and simple pastas are priced reasonably, striking a balance between the obvious quality of the ingredients and the sensibility of the neighbourhood. A charmingly forgetful bartender who said he was only moonlighting and our shy but sweet server rounded out the equation.

CR, as I will henceforth refer to it in text messages, is a welcome addition to the burgeoning neighbourhood foodie scene. We will be back, sans car and plus wine.

Campagnolo Roma on Urbanspoon