PRESTO!

UPDATE 2011-03-01: the restaurant has been closed… Bummer.

We have been going to Cafe Presto Panini 3-4 times now and the experience has been consistently rewarding.

A must have on our list is the excellent Roman Salad.  Its thick slices of prosciutto generously cover the organic greens which are mixed with some fresh and tasty tomato bits along with parmesan (did I detect a hint of Dijon mustard in there?) and balsamic dressing.

We have also tried a few of the paninis and, so far, our favorite is the Chicken Avocado.  The panino almost feels like it melts in your mouth — in a “non-mushy” way, of course ;) — as the tender chicken, avocado, tomato sauce and mozzarella make their way to your taste buds.

The cafe is small, but its following seems strong indeed as one could notice the chef merrily chatting with what seemed to be regulars on 3 occasions (out of 5 occupied tables — good ratio!), as they entered.  It’s always a good sign when you see people coming back for more.  I think they can count us in as regulars now, too. :)

In a nutshell:

Name Cafe Presto Panini
Address 859 Hornby St., Vancouver
Phone 604-684-4445
Food *****
Service Friendly.
Ambiance Simple. Homy.
Price Most dishes hover around $10 each.

.

.

.

Directions:

Advertisements

A VANCOUVER PRIMER: MAKING FRIENDS

“A Vancouver Primer” is a series of articles tailored for the new or prospective Vancouverite in mind.

As I moved to Vancouver by myself a little over two years ago, one of my top priorities was obviously to make new friends.  It wasn’t easy…  In the first few months following my arrival, I came to find out that Vancouver is intensely “private.”  Maybe the fact that I’m somewhat introverted didn’t help, but most people I’ve talked to since then would agree that it’s “cold” in Vancouver!

Here’s an anecdote to explain my point: it’s St-Valentine’s season (2007) and I’ve had it with on-line dating and its virtual hopes turning quickly into real disappointments.  I decide to try an actual live, organized, paying event which consists of some performance in a club followed by — so the description said — a mixing and mingling session with all the eligible bachelorettes and bachelors.  So the so-so show begins and, I don’t mind — what I’m really interested in is the mingling afterwards.  About 90 minutes later, the show ends and to my astonishment, most people immediately left!  “Hey!  Where did all the mingling go?!!!”  The organizers didn’t even attempt to keep the crowd in and lead them to the next step.  Introverted me actually had to take matters into my own hands and improvise the mingling session myself.  Although I had some interesting discussions with the few that stayed, no lasting contact was made — and that’s OK.

Oddly enough, that failed evening proved to be a blessing in disguise: during the uninspiring performance, I casually started to chat with my neighbour and complained to her about how difficult it was to meet people in Vancouver.  She said there were much better options out there for me to try and gave me a list of websites to look over.  As soon as I got back home, I skimmed through her short list and stopped looking when I got to a site called Meetup.  

Although I’d never heard of Meetup prior to that fateful evening, I was surprised to see how popular it was (as of this writing, nearly 600 Meetup groups exist within 25 miles of downtown Vancouver!).  With so many groups to choose from, chances are it will be just a few clicks before you find a few that match your interests.  Most of those groups are free to join.

Once you’ve joined a group, all you have to do is wait for the event notifications to come flooding your e-mail inbox. I guess it’s a necessary evil, especially if you’re new in town.  A word of advice if you’re part of a popular group: be quick!  If a group has over 1,000 members and there are only 20 spots to fill for an event, you can imagine how fast these could go!  It’s not uncommon for an event to be full within an hour in those cases.  But, never fear, if there are no spots left, I can almost guarantee you that a few will become available a day or two before the event as some people realize that “Oh, I won’t be able to make it after all.”  You just have to be a little proactive in checking the group’s calendar from time to time.  A recent feature on the Meetup site that I haven’t had the chance to experiment with yet is their “Waiting List.”  This sounds like it should render the need to checkup on those available spots unnecessary.

Another great thing I can tell you about Meetup is that you don’t necessarily need a car to go to those events.  I don’t have one myself and yet I’ve heard some born-and-bred Vancouverites tell me that I have probably seen more of Vancouver and its surroundings in two years than they have in their whole life (I managed to go to 25+ hiking spots and other places thanks to carpooling, in 2007)!  If you’re polite enough, you should have no trouble finding someone to carpool with (tipping the driver is obviously expected).  And here’s another tip for you: don’t wait for people offering to carpool to contact you first — ask them yourself!!!  It might seem obvious to you, but you’d be surprised how often I see members leaving their coordinates in their RSVP to an event, waiting for a carpooler to “serve” them… :s

Oh, and since I’ve heard the comment a few times before, might I add that Meetup is not necessarily for single people only…  Many of them are, yes, but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never felt like the events I’ve been to were a cover for a dating game. It’s all about the activity and the “prospects” are no more than a nice distraction — the activity might be dating, though (dating groups are a-plenty on Meetup)… :p  But I don’t think even the knitting group could keep you 100% safe from the clutches of love (if you’re single); after all, you will be meeting people that have interests similar to yours. ;)

Whether you’re in it for friendship or love, before you know it you’ll be making new friends.  My own experience with Meetup has been amazing!  I have attended many many events of all kinds — many of which I probably never would have thought of myself — and people have been overwhelmingly friendly, upbeat, and fun.  I now have a nice circle of “personal” friends, but they all started as “Meetup” friends (except one).  As a result, I don’t see my Meetup buddies as often as I used to anymore (too busy with the personal friends and the overall busyness of life), but I owe it to Meetup for making my social life exciting and, dare I say, even finding me a lovely wife (not from the knitting group :p ).

Thanks to Meetup, Vancouver rocks! :)

ENJOYING THE SUNSET AT ENGLISH BAY

Solar Clock at Sunset

Sunsets at English Bay are spectacular!!! The best way to experience the sunset, in my opinion, is over a romantic dinner in one of the few waterfront restaurants near the corner of Denman St. and Beach Av.  If you’re on a budget, picnicking alongside the sandy beach works too. And if that doesn’t inspire you, Denman St. has tons of dining opportunities for you to choose from — take your pick. ;)

Silhouettes

Inukshuk at Sunset

.
.

Directions:

GRANVILLE ISLAND

Taiko Drummers
Taiko drummers

Granville Island is a great place to “chill”…  [More on this great attraction at a later time…].

 

Shoot me! Shoot me!
The playground area offers lots of fun for kids

Mini-Venice
I call this area of Granville Island “Mini-Venice”… Cool — but surely expensive — place!

Directions:

.
.
.

MY FAVORITE SUSHI RESTAURANTS

Please note that this post will always evolve as I try more and more sushi places. Come back every so often to see which new spots made “my” cut. I Hope you agree, and please don’t complain if my tastes are not like yours. ;)

I love sushi and, many of my friends being foodies themselves, I’ve had the chance to try quite a few different sushi restaurants so far. Here then are my picks by category:

CATEGORY WHERE COMMENT
Best
Salmon Sashimi
Gyoza King* 1508 Robson St.
Vancouver
604-669-8278
Actually, the restaurant specifically mentions that it’s a “24-hour sushi-free zone”, but they do serve the tastiest salmon sashimi around (although it is somewhat thin and pricey).  Instantly, as my girlfriend and I tried it for the first time, we both went “MMMMMM!!!!”  Outstanding! :)
Best California Roll Gohan
1815 Rosser Av.
Burnaby
604-205-5212
Gohan’s California Roll is just the right size and the filling is dense and very tasty.  I usually take it as part of their lunch special, which includes a miso soup, California roll (6) or sushi (3), and an entree (chicken teriyaki or some other option) for $7.95.  You might not be “totally” full after this, but it’s not a bad deal anyway.
Best
Spicy Tuna Cone
Richmond Sushi
8388 Capstan Way, #1488
Richmond
604-207-7799
I’m not too keen on tuna, but add some spice to it and I’m in! I was having “all you can eat” sushi and when I tried that spicy tuna cone, it’s like nothing else existed for me! :) Very tasty indeed.  But for those of you who don’t like their food too spicy, you might want to avoid this one (last time I was there, a friend complained it was too spicy).
Best Price Sushi Garden
4635 Kingsway
Burnaby
604-436-0104
The first time I went there, I had their BC Combo — which includes 4 BC rolls, 4 Alaska rolls, and 2 pieces each of tuna and salmon sushi — all for 8$ (plus tax)! And their rolls are quite big. It’s actually a little cumbersome to eat, but hey, I’m all for a cheap bill and a full stomach! :)  The restaurant is often crowded; very popular place, across the street from Metrotown.
Best “All You Can Eat” Richmond Sushi
8388 Capstan Way, #1488
Richmond
604-207-7799
(Be warned that I’ve only tried a handful of AYCE places so far, but right now, this is my pick…  Let me know about your favorite! :) )I like their semi-private booths, the overall quality of the food is decent (and “great” for that spicy tuna cone I just mentioned) and they have a great deal if you don’t mind eating late.  I don’t remember exactly how much it was — it’s been a while since I’ve been there — but I think it’s 14$ after 9:30PM.
Best Overall Samurai Japanese Restaurant
1108 Davie St.
Vancouver
604-609-0078
Very generous sushi portions, great taste, affordable price.  Their salmon sashimi is a close second taste-wise to Gyoza King’s, but the size is so much bigger…  It’s like one piece at Samurai is worth three — nevertheless delicious ones — at Gyoza King.  Their chopped scallops roll is great too, and a bunch of non-sushi related dishes like their gyoza, tempura, and unagi don (cooked eel in a rice bowl).

Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to try them all…  Let me know about your favorites too (as long as it doesn’t sound like a shameless plug for a restaurant)!

* I put the official link to Gyoza King’s web site here, but be warned that as of this writing, it seems to be in Japanese only.

Bookmark and Share

ABOUT MY FOOD POSTS

Finally! I’ve just posted my first of many dining-related posts. My approach to those articles will be fairly simple: I went to some restaurant and liked what I ate? I’ll tell you about it… No negative posts. I’ll probably mention briefly some things about the service, ambiance, etc. but I don’t plan on making a thorough assessment of every restaurant/place I go to, though. I’ll leave that part to the professional critics.  Oh, and for the purists out there…  I’m more interested about how food tastes than whether it’s authentic or not.  If it tastes good, that’s good enough for me.  Hope it is for you too.

Note: Vancouver was recently rated the 10th best restaurant city in the world.  So: Best city to live in (2005), one of the best places for food, and home to the 2010 Olympics — we’ve got it pretty good around here! :)

HOW SWEET IT IS!

(2008-06-10) My girlfriend and I have a thing for desserts and we’re always on the lookout for “sweet spots.” After trying a few, we’ve been most impressed with the excellent, Parisian inspired Ganache Patisserie in Yaletown. Personally, I’d have their “Caramel-Chocolat” dessert every day if my system could handle it. That caramel topping and subtle crunch in every bite of chocolate/caramel mousse is to die for! :D

(2009-05-12) More recently, we’ve been impressed with their “Mango-Chocolat” also. Lighter taste than the “Caramel-Chocolat”, but just as flavorful.

Anytime we need to buy a cake for someone this is the place we go to — it’s just that good. :)

In a nutshell:

Name Ganache Patisserie
Address 1262 Homer St. (Yaletown), Vancouver
Phone 604-899-1098
Food *****
Service N/A (at the counter… They do bring the desserts to you in a jiffy though :) )
Ambiance Nice. Casual. Relaxed. Modern.
Price Varies greatly, depending if you’re going only for an individual dessert (about 6$) or a humongous wedding cake ($$$$)

.
.
.

Directions: