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Another hot chocolate stop I’ve made was Chez Christophe in Burnaby. I remember meeting Christophe at a work conference years ago when he was doing cooking demonstration. That was before he opened his shop in Burnaby. Since then, I’ve been there a few times for pastries, but this was my first time trying their hot chocolate fest creations.

Both of Chez Christophe’s creations are inspired by popular fantasy stories. First, the Ruby Slippers was true to its name, donning a pretty hue of pink thanks to the use of ruby chocolate. I could taste the fruity, acidic note in ruby, combined with the fragrant, floral note of rose water. The two notes actually complemented each other very well. The ruby covered macadamia nuts were a nice combo of sweet and salty.

The Golden Genie was a tumeric white hot chocolate with turmeric, served with a macaron with caramel cardamom ganache.

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The official Dine Out Vancouver may be ending on Sunday, but some restaurants have decided to offer the Dine Out menus just for a few more days.

Here is a list that I curated. I will continue to update this list as I hear more about other restaurants.

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While Dine Out Vancouver is happening, did you know there’s also Hot Chocolate Festival? In fact, this is the 10th annual Hot Chocolate Festival. 44 different locations offering more than 110 flavours over a 4-week period, up until Valentine’s Day. Of course, I take this opportunity every year to discover local chocolatiers and find whimsical, creative hot chocolates.

First stop this year is the new 1931 Gallery Bistro at the Vancouver Art Gallery. They have recently renovated the bistro space upstairs from the art gallery and renamed it. They are also part of Dine Out Vancouver but I thought its $45 menu wasn’t quite worth it and they didn’t make it on my list.

Anyway, onto the hot chocolates. I was very intrigued because all their creations were inspired by art. Unfortunately, they were having technical difficulty so at the time of my visit they could only offer 2 of the 4 creations listed on the official website. As per my usual, I ordered one of each.

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Where have you been so far for Dine Out Vancouver? I was quite excited to see The Rise Eatery on the list. Last year they did their own prix fixe menu for $30 and I took Mama Lam and Papa Lam there. It was a good deal and we really enjoyed the food. This year, it’s $35 and I still think it’s a solid menu; I had them on my list of recommendations. So when I got the invite to preview their menu, yes all the way!

Food

Brilliant as ever, the menu is a page of food puns. Let’s go over it one by one.

Chicken Seoul Good – as suggested, this is Korean style fried chicken, but with a twist of a mushroom gravy. The chicken was crispy and moist, and the scent of truffle can be smelled from miles away.

A Curve Ball is a vegan dish. Continue Reading »

Where have you booked for Dine Out this year? If you are still deciding, I’m going to start sharing my experiences, whether it’s an invited dinner or out of my own pocket. I was invited as a media to preview the menu at PiDGiN. Their food is a fusion of Asian and French cuisines, and they decorate the interior by rotating artworks by local artists.

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They have designed their $45 DOVF menu to be as close to their regular prix fixe menu as possible, which is a 6-course menu shared family style for a minimum of 2 people. You have the option of an omnivore menu, or a vegetarian one. You can also order drink pairing for an additional $40-50 per person. The Dine Out website didn’t include the vegetarian menu, so I suggest you to visit PiDGiN’s website for the menus, and I’m posting them here as well. Note that the following plates are all meant to be shared by 2 people – they will adjust the portion based on party size.

Food

In addition to the 6-course menu, you can also order snacks a la carte. The Beef Tendon Chicharron was addictive. It’s crispy, and it wasn’t greasy. There was just enough seasoning, and the gochugaru citrus spice reminded me of sour plum flavour, with the tiniest hint of heat.

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They use different vegetables to make their Daily Pickles. On this day, it was cucumber, ume-infused daikon and shitake mushrooms. They were just slightly pickled, so they weren’t overly briny or vinegary.

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Dine Out Vancouver is back! Running from January 17 to February 2, the prix fixe portion of this year’s program is the same as last year, with 4 price points at $15, $25, $35 and $45. There are also lunch options, usually at a cheaper price than dinner. Menu may not be the same as dinner, though, so the value for money is a bit debatable.

The menus are now live and reservations are open. As I was going through the menus, I noticed a lot of new restaurants, ones that I’ve never heard of before. There’s been a lot of openings and closures last year so it makes sense – but it’s also nice to know it’s not the same old list. Here are some suggestions, based on past experience (Dine Out or not) as well as menu attractiveness (e.g. value for the money, choice of ingredients, creativity in the menu, enough options for two people, etc.). Now keep in mind I curated the list based on my preference (as you know, I’m a meat lover and I’m biased against chicken and salmon), my way of thinking, so it may not all suit your taste. But hopefully this gives you a place to start.

I’ve included links to the menu to make it easier for you.

$15 Suggestions

Crispy Chicken Sandwich and Fries, Popina

$25 Suggestions

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The wait is over. One of the highly anticipated restaurants to open in Vancouver – Afuri ramen + dumpling – has officially opened its doors. The Afuri brand was established in 2001. This is the fourth ramen + dumpling location outside of Japan, first in Canada. Last year we went to Portland and checked out the ramen + izakaya and I was quite excited about the arrival of ramen + dumpling here in Vancouver. Technically the restaurant is in Richmond. It’s where Dazzling Cafe used to be (remember Dazzling Cafe?). I was invited to its media night and previewed some of its menu items.

Afuri ramen + dumpling uses a kiosk system. Meaning, you go up to one of the three kiosks at the restaurant, place your order, grab a number then head back to your table. At the media preview, to my surprise food arrived very quickly so I don’t think it would be a long wait at the table for your food.

Food

Afuri’s signature broth is chicken based. We saw this giant stock pot (apparently there’s only 3 of these pots in Vancouver and here’s one) that holds enough broth to serve 450-500 bowls of ramen. It takes 300lbs of chicken (meat and bones), 3 types of dried fish, konbu seaweed, and fresh vegetables, on a simmer at 90 degrees for 3 hours. They never bring this broth to a boil, to ensure a clear broth in your bowl. It also helps skimming the fat easier. They then add yuzu, a small citrus fruit native to Asia, to give this broth a refreshing taste.

As for noodles, they make them fresh, in house, daily. If you visit them at lunch, you will likely see the machines going, mixing and rolling the dough and cutting the dough into noodles. Will they run out? I was told they would make enough servings everyday and if need be, they can jump in and make some more to meet the demand.

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