Tap Restaurant – Surrey, BC

It feels like ages since I’ve sat down to write a review here. Nine months to be exact. I’m not sure what happened or why it took me so long to get back into the swing of things and enjoy writing again. It probably has something to do with life getting in the way, or the multitude of changes that have occurred recently. Since moving my entire life to British Columbia, attempting to settle in to a new job, new home and make new friends, my passion for writing has been put on the back burner. That completely changed when I visited Tap Restaurant. The spark was reignited and I am once again excited to share my experience of what I think is an outstanding fine dining establishment.

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My parents were so generous in giving us a gift card to Tap Restaurant for Christmas which allowed us the freedom to choose freely from the menu without worrying about how our wallets would judge us later. The menu is reasonably priced, considering the quality of the locally sourced ingredients and the time and passion that goes into creating their dishes. I would have no issue forking out (get it?) a few extra bucks of my hard earned money to dine here again.

Tap Restaurant is located in south Surrey, tucked away in what seems to be a nice, quiet residential area. They have a beautiful patio that I can’t wait to enjoy in the summer.

We made our reservation for 7PM on a weeknight and there were only a handful of tables occupied during our visit. We were immediately welcomed by most of the staff, including the chef as we walked through the doors and were sat by a beautiful, warm fireplace to enjoy our meal. The dining area is small and cozy with tasteful modern decor which created a warm intimate dining experience. It also features an open kitchen concept so you can watch the cooks work their magic.

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We began our meal with the parmesan risotto with white truffle oil. During our drive to the restaurant, I was looking over the menu and had my heart set on this as a starter. I’m incredibly glad we did. The risotto was every bit as creamy as you’d want a risotto to be, cooked perfectly, piping hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top. We opted for some fresh pepper on top as well. I’d been craving a good risotto for a while, and this sealed the deal. It was also a perfect portion for sharing.

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An interesting section on their menu is the puff pastry tartes flambees. We settled on the Alsace puff pastry with double smoked bacon, caramelized onion and Gruyere cheese. Although not flambeed, the puff pastry was incredible – unlike any puff pastry I’ve had. It was warm, flaky, indulgent, drizzled with a balsamic reduction, a delicious white sauce and topped with shallots. Another great dish to share.

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My main of choice was the Rossdown Farms chicken with rosemary and thyme veloute, wild rice and a side of kale, carrots and green beans. The chicken was incredibly juicy, hot with a perfectly crispy skin. The veloute worked perfectly with the rice and vegetables. The carrots were incredible and the kale was to die for. I even stole some from my partners plate. The vegetables were clearly fresh and the beans had a wonderful crunch.

After our two starters, the portioning of this dish was perfect.

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My partner had the beef tenderloin with an olive oil herb potato pave and same delicious vegetables that eventually made their way to my plate too. My boyfriend is great at sharing! The beef was beautifully cooked, tender and succulent with prominent  flavours and beautifully seasoned. I was fortunate enough to grab a bite and the meat simply melted in my mouth. I’d never had potato pave before and to my delight it was seared in butter and had the perfect balance of crisp edges and a soft potato center. Additionally, flavours of thyme and rosemary elevated this dish wonderfully.

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I struggled with what to order for dessert. Each option sounded even better than the last so I narrowed it down to a final two and asked our waitress for her recommendation. It was between the poached pear or lemon cremeux. On her recommendation, the lemon cremeux was the winner. This was a sweet and refreshing way to finish the meal. The meringue was delicious and perfectly toasted and the lemon cremeux was sweet and tangy. The raspberry caviar was a fun and sweet visual addition to this dish.

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My better half chose the lava cake which he described as rich and indulgent – decadence at its finest. Obviously I had a bite or two, for research purposes. The cake was warm and gooey, wonderfully cooked and just the right size. The side of creme anglaise made this dish even more indulgent than it was on its own. It’s the perfect way to complete your dining experience, especially if you’ve had a lighter meal.

Tap Restaurant has amazing staff, beautiful ambiance and the plating and presentation of their dishes is creative and inspiring. The people who work here bring everything together perfectly and you can tell they are proud to work there

We can’t wait to come back and enjoy more of what Tap Restaurant has to offer and sample from their large wine selection for our next date night.

Most importantly, I’m looking forward to bringing my family here during their visit from Ontario for my 30th birthday.

Tap Restaurant is located at 101-15350 34th Avenue, Surrey BC.

-Rach

 Tap Urban Cafe & Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lou Dawg’s Hamilton

Last week my significant other and I had the pleasure of trying out Hamilton’s newest addition to the Southern BBQ scene, Lou Dawg’s! Nestled away in Hess Village, Lou Dawg’s is a Southern BBQ and Blues restaurant that originated in Toronto and quickly became famous for their slow smoked BBQ, bourbon and blues. Now, branching out into Hamilton, owners Erika Puckering and Chef Jamie Ewing have taken on Hess Village and packed delicious, smoked and savoury flavours into their dishes.

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I’m in love with the décor inside this place. The weathered wood and brick accents paired with adorable bulb string lights and vintage rugs give Lou’s a perfectly southern country vibe. The location is warm and inviting and the smells from the kitchen will certainly get your mouth watering. FullSizeRender (33)

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We started our BBQ adventure with Lou Dawg’s signature Smoked Lemon Southern Tea. The key to this addictive and refreshing drink is the in house smoked lemons, but lets not forget the two shots of Jack Daniel’s honey whiskey! We couldn’t get over how delicious this drink was and kept reminding ourselves to come back when the patio is open to enjoy this bad boy in the sunshine. This will be a must have this summer!

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For our main BBQ dishes we ordered the 2 meats (beef brisket & pulled pork) and 2 sides (meaty BBQ beans & fries) option for $14.95 – value city! We also couldn’t pass on the Angry Loutine or the Jalapeño Cornbread Muffin since I’ve heard so many good things about it!

I’m going to start off with discussing this mountain of fried potato, meaty goodness because this was the best thing that entered my mouth that night. Yeah, yeah – [enter sexual innuendo here] Get your mind out of the gutter! Seriously though, this ain’t your typical loaded poutine, oh no, my friend. This right here will be the reason I return to Lou’s. The Angry Loutine is the Mighty Loutine (cheese curds and chicken gravy) topped with jalapeños, pulled pork, BBQ mayo and crispy onions. Lou’s poutine game is strong. Crispy, creamy, spicy and salty in one bite. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back this weekend to get this again. If you love a good poutine, you’ll seriously appreciate this. FYI – this was a SMALL.

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Everything together on the table provided to be quite the spread and was a tad intimidating at first! We questioned whether we would live to see another day after eating all this food and how long it would take to crawl to our cars after such an epic meal. Even a bread roll is included to soak up all the delicious house made sauce which is generously provided to you at the table.

So, accepting our fate, we dug in. I was pleasantly surprised at how tender and juicy the meat was, especially the brisket. Although I do believe the portion size was a bit on the small side,  it was a great cut of meat and was cooked perfectly. The pulled pork was outstanding on its own or stuffed in the bread roll. Squirt on some extra sauce and you’re in BBQ heaven. I’m normally not a huge fan of beans (texture-a-phobe) but I really enjoyed the meaty beans. The beans were cooked well and smothered in delicious sauce. They were also super tasty re-heated the next day.

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FullSizeRender (30)FullSizeRender (29)When I asked my foodie friends what they liked at Lou’s, the Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread was a hot topic. I was not let down in the least. It came out moist (important) and warm with awesomely crispy edges and definitely spicy, as expected. At the center of the corn muffin was a delicious chunk of cheddar cheese. I tried the cheese on its own and found it had a sweet flavour while not completely melted, which I thought was great. For an extra $2.95 I’d say the corn muffin is well worth the try.

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Overall I’d say Lou Dawg’s is a strong contender in Hamilton’s southern smoked BBQ scene. Their sauces and quality of meat are on point, they have a great list of signature cocktails and will be hosting a series of live music and community nights. I also really appreciated the friendly atmosphere and relaxed vibe at Lou’s. The staff are amazing and definitely take good care of you.

Not to mention they are open for Southern brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11-4PM with $5 Mimosas and Caesars! Brunch includes items like breakfast poutines, burritos and benny’s.

Combine great BBQ, live music and exceptional service and I think you’ve got yourself a good time! With their outdoor patio NOW OPEN, summer in Hamilton just got a little more exciting.
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Check out their Twitter: @LouDawgsHamOnt to stay updated on future events and menu updates.

If you’re wandering around Hess village in a haze, Lou’s won’t be hard to find with their kick ass BBQ sign out front.

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Lou Dawg’s is located at 116 George Street in Hamilton.

Amen to summer and BBQ/patio season!

-Rach

Staxx Burger Chicken and Waffle House

Sometimes you just get an insatiable craving for fried chicken. I’d heard about Staxx multiple times from many Hamiltonians, some who hadn’t been in ages but remember their chicken and waffles fondly, some who visit regularly and others who hadn’t been at all. Myself and a few family friends were well overdue for a hangout and we always plan to try a great spot in Hamilton for some dinner and chatter. This time we chose Staxx. We planned this dinner about a month in advance so the anticipation was killing me by the time I got there.

A large group of us (about 12) went on a Friday night and were smart enough to make reservations well ahead of time. Being as small as the restaurant is, if you’re looking to chow down on some fried chicken, I’d recommend trying to make a reservation beforehand. Now, this is nothing new as I believe their old location only sat about 25-30 people, their new location is about the same.

Luckily we didn’t have to wait too long for our tables (about half an hour past our reservation time) and were greeted by very friendly bar and wait staff. This gave us all a chance to look over the menu, get recommendations and ask for clarification on things we had questions about.

Once we sat down, the restaurant quickly filled up and before we knew it all tables were full and people were waiting at the door to be seated. Needless to say it was a bit hectic and loud but that diminished over time. A few of us ordered starters for the table to share which included deep fried pickles, onion rings and Wagyu beef sliders. I only managed to snap pictures of the beef sliders as the other apps were snatched up real quick!

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These bad boys were absolutely delicious. The beef was juicy, perfecly seasoned and was dressed with minimal toppings which is so important with sliders. Just some gooey cheese, aioli and lettuce and tomato on the side. The bun was amazing too, soft on the insdie with crispy, buttery edges. This app came with three sliders for around $11. The sliders, along with the deep fried pickles haven’t been added to their new online menu yet.

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I ordered the Fried Chicken Platter (2 pcs) and a side Caesar salad. I really enjoyed these two hunks of meat. The chicken was piping hot, incredibly juicy and the seasoning was really lovely. I didn’t find it overly salty either, which was a big concern of mine going into this. The chicken had great flavour and such a satisfying crunch. One thing I realized at the end of the night was that I never received coleslaw that was supposed to be included in my meal. So, unfortunately I can’t speak to how that was. The Caesar salad was good. Nothing spectacular, just your average Caesar salad. I at least appreciated that it came with bacon and I didn’t have to pay extra for it!

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My uncle did his research before coming to the restaurant and read that the Jerk chicken was a popular item on the menu. It really is a beautiful looking dish. The mango salsa topping was fresh and sweet and paired perfectly with the spicy Jerk seasoning. My uncle really enjoyed the Jerk seasoning and said the chicken was tender and juicy.

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My boyfriend and I shared a large order of fries and let me tell you they were the bomb. SO good. I love skin on french fries and these were so addicting. But let me tell you, the real MVP here was the gravy. I would have drank that stuff out of the cup if I wasn’t going to be judged for it 😉 My boyfriend also ordered the fried chicken fingers tossed in buffalo sauce. I have to be honest in saying that we nearly choked when they were brought to the table. The sauce was heavy with vinegar and was very spicy, to the point where he couldn’t enjoy eating them. Someone who has a taste for very spicy things maybe wouldn’t have found it overbearing but even for myself it was a bit much.

Overall it was a great dinner. I really enjoyed the food and bustling atmosphere but there were times that the service was very lacking. It did take quite some time for our appetizers to come out and some of us had to go to the bar to get a refill on our alcoholic beverages. We sat at our tables with empty plates for quite some time while servers walked by, looking directly at us and our table and not taking anything away. I need to note that the restaurant was at capacity during this time and there were only three employees working the dining room, one of which didn’t even work there and was helping out for the night. So, with that in mind, I can understand why the service would be less than perfect. The staff was very friendly and had a very positive attitude despite the fact that they were short handed.

The next time I have a craving for fried chicken I will definitely keep Staxx in mind.

Staxx Chicken and Waffle house is located at 275 King Street East, Hamilton.

Cluck, cluk!

-Rach

Paramount Fine Foods – Hamilton

So there’s this great restaurant on the Hamilton mountain that ha- WAIT, STOP. What? You thought all the good restaurants were downtown? WRONG. There’s a growing number of fantastic restaurants on the Hamilton mountain. Welcome to a whole new world my friend. I’d like to introduce you to Paramount Fine Foods on Upper James Street, although I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you already know about this place since they’ve been popping up new locations across the GTA over the last four years.

I was lucky enough to be invited to their Hamilton location to try out a few new items on their menu, along with a bunch of other local food bloggers. Sura and her attentive staff were wonderfully accommodating and knowledgable. To warm up our tummies, they brought us multiple baskets of their new Saj bread. This hot out of the clay oven, thin crust bread is prepared by hand and served piping hot – with steam still coming out of its airy insides. The dough is absolutely delicious and fills the air with that familiar warm bread smell as it hits the table.

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So, naturally this bread pairs perfectly with a bowl full of hummus. I really enjoyed this appetizer as it wasn’t consumed by copious amounts of garlic, like some hummus I’ve tried in the past. It was perfectly creamy and had just the right amount of olive oil. I also appreciated the chickpeas ontop as it added another layer of texture to the dish.

FullSizeRender (4)We were brought a wonderfully fragrant and equally delicious Fattoush salad. The vinaigrette dressing was light and tangy, paired well with the fresh veggies and my favourite part of the salad, the crispy fried pita bits. This salad is a great way to start your meal on a healty and satisfying note.

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Up next was the main event. MEAT! Pictured on the left is their new Sujuk Shawarma which is a grilled, spiced minced beef sausage wrapped up tightly in a pita and stuffed with pickles. On the right we have my pick, the all new Saj Sandwich – roasted chicken wrapped in their fresh Saj bread, stuffed with pickles and seasoned with all sorts of wonderful Middle Eastern spices. This was my favourite because the jucy chicken really allowed the flavours of the spices to shine. On the side are some fresh tomatoes, pickles and a delicious garlic sauce for your dipping pleasure.

Moving on, I gave my tummy a pep-talk and prepared myself for the dessert round. The dessert in the picture below really intrigued me. While looking at their selection of desserts and carefully choosing what I wanted, I was informed that the orange bits ontop of this ooey-gooey plate of cheese were infact Vermicelli noodles! They utilize these noodles on many of their desserts and Baklawa as well. I was unsure of this dish at first and was expecting a strong cheese flavour however, that was far from the case. This delightful dish is called Kinafe; cheese drizzled with sugar syrup, topped with vermicelli and crushed pistachio. The cheese is very mild and not overpowering which plays well with the sweetness of the syrup.

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Because I’m a small child at heart, these cookies were singing my name. Sprinkles? Yeah, totally doing that. These bad boys were filled with a vanilla cream and dipped in dark chocolate, then as you can see, dipped in a sea of fun, colourful sprinkles. These were super tasty!

I present to you, the star of the evening: IMG_1570FullSizeRender (11) FullSizeRender (10) FullSizeRender (9) BAKLAWA! (I originally thought this was spelt with a “v” and not a “w”) Shout-out to my boyfriend for telling me its spelt with a “w” and not a “v” and being a trooper when I didn’t believe him. OOPS. Sorry babes – you’re right. But really tho, can someone explain to me the difference in spelling? More importantly, the Baklawa here is incredible. One might even say as addicting as Cocaine! I’m looking at you Paul from Hamilton Gastronomy. We agreed there must be some secret cocaine ingredient baked into these golden nuggets. I know I’ll be back to buy a full tray and take it home to share with no one. NOT SORRY.

There’s just something about layered phyllo, melted butter, pistachios and sweet rose syrup that warms the heart and makes me a believer that there is still good in the world.

I urge you to climb/bike/drive/walk up the mountain to Paramount Fine Foods and give this place a try. The menu is huge, full of fresh dishes with farm to table ingredients and produce. It’s a feast for the eyes and stomach.

Hamilton’s Paramount Fine Foods is located at 1441 Upper James Street.

Have a sweet Holiday everyone 🙂

-Rach FullSizeRender (14)

Paramount Fine Foods Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Foodie Abroad: Valencia, Spain

Oh, Valencia! What an absolutely stunning, vibrant and exciting city. I sincerely loved my time spent here. From the palm trees that line the cobblestone and marble walkways to the tranquil sandy beaches, Valencia is definitely a place to put on your travel itinerary. It’s also a foodies paradise. I was blown away by the food we indulged in here. If there’s any country I could see myself living in for eternity, it’d be Spain, purely due to the amazing food, culture and lifestyle. Barcelona will always hold a very special place in my heart for many reasons, but now that I’ve experienced Valencia, I’ve just had to make my heart bigger.

We stayed in what I would consider my favourite hostel of all that we stayed in during our travels, Home Youth Hostel. We met some amazing people with the same passion for travel that we had, shared authentic, home made Sangria and ate beautiful food.

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Not only was our hostel amazing on its own but its location was equally as amazing. A few steps down the street was the Mercat Central, one of the oldest European public markets offering a range of souvenirs, baked goods, cured meats, cheese, spices, fruits and so much more. We came here often to grab goodies for lunch on the go or a quick and tasty dinner. There is so much to see and sample, you need to visit more than once to really appreciate all the local produce offered here. *Can we also take a second to note the little old lady in this picture*

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I nearly lost my cool when I saw these massive bags of paprika. I’m a self-professed paprika NUT! I put it in nearly everything I cook at home. I love the rich and savoury flavour it adds and knew my dad would be equally as stoked to see this – I couldn’t wait to show him! In addition to this, many places sold saffron and other wonderful spices and blends.

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We always made sure to purchase some cured meats, fresh bread and cheese as these were staples for us while traveling. There was no shortage of that here! Mercat Central is no doubt a hot spot to visit while in Valencia, even if you don’t plan to buy anything, definitely head over there for the experience and enticing smells.

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We stumbled on this wonderful little restaurant Maria Madiles while exploring the city and decided to have a bite for lunch. This was such a great find. We were starving and this place delivered. They had a beautiful little patio set up outside with architecturally stunning apartments and stores surrounding it. My bestie had the seafood paella which was outstanding and I ordered the Caprese salad (top left) while our male friend ordered the chicken salad (top right). All three dishes were delicious, flavourful and fresh, which gave us the energy to continue on our adventure that day. I think I ordered a Caprese salad in every city we visited! Go figure!

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Of course we stumbled on another great restaurant while exploring the streets, BaBalu. That’s the beauty of traveling to places you haven’t been before. You get out there, explore and come across amazing new things that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

You’ll find this type of cuisine in most restaurants around the city. They offer cured meats, cheese and tapas as well as salads, croquettes, paella, patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy sauce) and Spanish tortillas (or Spanish omelette). We really pigged out here. I remember it being a pretty warm night and being hangry for the most part. This definitely tamed the hungry beast inside of me. We finished off our meal with a refreshing ice cream dessert.IMG_0596 IMG_0597 IMG_0598 IMG_0599 IMG_0600So, we found this AMAZING Italian style restaurant just down the road from our hostel, Bacco Doc, that had pizzas for I believe €6 at the time. We were obviously on a budget (and hungry) so this really excited us. Let me tell you, these. pizzas. were. so. good. We ordered the Quatro Formaggi (four cheese), Margherita (mozzarella, tomato and basil) and a Carbonara pizza (cream sauce base, cheese, pork and an egg on top). The pizza dough was crispy and thin, and the toppings were minimal which was a really nice change. The focus was on the flavour combinations rather than piling on as many toppings as possible. The sauce was beautiful and the cheese was outstanding. This was such a wonderful treat for us and very unexpected. The rest of the menu looked amazing as well and the interior of the restaurant alone would warrant another visit to dine in. It had a very romantic yet Gothic vibe.

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There’s also so many amazing Gelato spots around the city that provide a wide variety of interesting and creative flavours. You’ll never be far from a delicious frozen treat on a hot day in Valencia.

If you’re planning a trip to Europe sometime in the future, seriously consider visiting Spain and all its wonderful cities, especially Valencia. The people, food and culture are all beautiful and I promise you will never want to leave!

Here’s a picture of me running to the beach in Valencia for your amusement – hah!

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Happy traveling and eating!

-Rach

Lotus Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine

One of my two jobs is working for the City of Hamilton at one of our wonderful recreation centres in Stoney Creek. Needless to say, there’s not much variety on this part the mountain when it comes to places to eat, especially something quick and delicious for lunch. Lucky for my colleagues and I, a few new places have opened up on Mud Street, one of them being Lotus Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine. They took over Quiznos old location (I was pretty heartbroken when they disappeared – loved their soups!) but if I had known a Thai restaurant would be opening in their place, I wouldn’t have shed so many tears over lost soup.

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Since this is a brand new location, it’s very clean and shiny. It boasts a bright open space with ample seating. I was greeted by two adorable little girls who ran into the kitchen to grab their mommy. I told the woman I was interested in trying the Pad Thai and she suggested their Lotus Pad Thai, which she said was a bit creamier and more spicy than the traditional. I opted out and decided to stick with the traditional Pad Thai as something to compare the Lotus Pad Thai to at a later date.

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Walking in, I had no idea they had a lunch menu until I saw it on their counter (yay!). The Pad Thai came with a tasty little spring roll, sauce for dipping and a wonderfully fresh, crisp salad with a light and refreshing dressing. I really enjoyed the salad. I love love love onion and I’m really happy they used red onion in this salad. Since the dressing was fairly light in flavour, the red onion helped to kick it up a notch.

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(Backstory – I had to scarf down my lunch between shifts which is why you’re seeing pictures of my knee and shift knob. Hah!)

Anyway, the Pad Thai was PIPING hot! I couldn’t even keep it on my lap which made me happy that it was so fresh. In regards to the dish itself, out of the many Pad Thai’s I’ve had, this one was definitely a competitor. The chicken was delicious and they didn’t cheap out on the amount of it either. The egg and tofu really make this a well rounded and filling lunch. My only concern with it was the sweetness of the peanut sauce. Although delicious, it was a little on the sweet side for my taste. It’s what I like to call, “too much of a good thing”. Maybe that’s what the Lotus Pad Thai is for, something less sweet with more of a kick.

Regardless, this was a great option for lunch. Quick, fresh and delicious. All for $10. I really hope this place survives up here because I’d love to try their Vermecelli and Pho dishes too.

Lotus Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine is located at 280 Mud Street West in Stoney Creek.

Website: http://lotuscuisine.ca

Happy eating!

-Rach

Lotus Thai & Vietnamese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Aberdeen Tavern’s 1st Anniversary Bash!

Since I moved to Hamilton, the Aberdeen Tavern has been at top of my list for restaurants to try. Why I hadn’t made it there until last night is beyond me. I mean, besides the fact that I work like a dog and only have time to sleep, eat and (sometimes) get to the gym, I don’t have much time for myself. In any event, around the month of April, my shifts with the city are cut down a bit and it gives me some free time in the afternoon and evenings. So it was with great excitement that I accepted an invitation to the Aberdeen Tavern’s 1st birthday bash from my new friend, Justin Baisden. Justin is a fellow Hamiltonian and runs the food blog, Eating Your Content. If you live in the Hamilton area and love anything to do with food, you’ve probably heard of him.

I have to admit, I was pretty damn nervous to attend this. I’m fairly new to the whole blogging scene, let alone being invited to media events full of professional foodies, so I wasn’t sure what to expect or how to act. Once I got there, after a few minutes of chatting and two (delicious) cocktails, I realized I was in a room full of people who shared the same passion as I did. As the appetizers started to flow from the kitchen, I began to relax and find my groove. It’s amazing how food brings people together.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Avi, who served me up a couple of cocktails (okay, a few) that were so delicious. My favourite was definitely the Key West Collins (left side of the picture) which incorporates bourbon, lime juice, bitters, soda and Galliano liqueur, rimmed with graham crackers! It was a perfect balance between sweet and sour, super refreshing (will be an amazing patio drink in the summer) and paired beautifully with the food we were tasting. I also tried one of the draft beers which was also delicious. Needless to say, it was a great start to the evening.

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The above dish is the Hoisin glazed pork belly with avacado, pickled carrot, chili aioli and coriander. This was only my second time trying pork belly. I’m really starting to become a fan of this stuff. It’s crispy on the outside, soft, warm and somewhat juicy on the inside. Definitely a dish you need to savour and let melt in your mouth. Plus, there was some sort of crunchy garnish that really added a nice contrasting texture to the pork belly. I have no idea what it was. Maybe someone can clear that up for me in the comments below. 

Funny side story: this was the first plate I tried and as I’m marveling at its beauty, with my fork I attempted to unsuccessfully slice it in half. Not knowing my own strength, I managed to push the pork belly off the plate and onto my shoe. What a waste *tear* I still have the stain from its impact on my shirt and shoe. Not to worry dear reader, I made sure I consumed at lest three more plates of this delicious meaty goodness to make up for the lost one. RIP.

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Next up was the Scallop and Sweet Pea Risotto with black tiger shrimp, parmesean and *wait for it* fifteen year old balsamic. This dish was a top contender for me. I love a good risotto, especially when done right. Let me tell you, this risotto was perfect. It was soft and creamy with an added cheesiness of parmesean. The scallop was a great way to prepare your mouth for the rush of flavour that was following it. It was perfectly seared on all sides, crispy and full of flavour. The balsamic was a great finish in this dish as it added a sweet and salty component that really worked well with the other ingredients.

SONY DSCThis dish was a first for me. The Beef Carpaccio with mustard sauce, pickled honey mushrooms, arugula and parmesean was something I have never tried before. Believe it or not, I’ve never had raw meat like this before. It was so refreshing and flavourful I couldn’t figure out why this was the first time I was trying it. Better late than never, I guess. I’m extremely happy I tried it here. Although, a knife might have made it a bit easier for me to chow down on. A full slice really fills up the mouth and I found myself spending some time breaking it down before I could finish. However, that didn’t stop me from trying this dish a couple more times. The mustard sauce was so aromatic and really danced on your taste buds with the chilled meat. A fantastic compliment of flavours, temperature and texture. Bravo!

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Next up was the Albacore Tuna Sashimi with jalapeño, avocado puree, cilantro and a yuzu miso vinaigrette. I’m not as much a fan of raw fish on its own as I am now of red meat. I’ll kill five sushi rolls on any given day, but I’ve just not found myself interested in sashimi. That was of course until I tried this. I really enjoyed that it was thinly sliced and paired with more intense flavours. The slice of jalapeño with the miso vinaigrette was what made this dish really stand out for me.

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I’ve got a serious crush on cauliflower lately and this just made me want to get down on one knee. The Buffalo Roasted Cauliflower with pickled crudite and blue cheese dressing was my winner for the night. It was so crispy and juicy at the same time and combined with the kick of buffalo sauce, it was just a delicious punch in the mouth. As the evening progressed I noticed they hadn’t continued to pump out the cauliflower like they were with the other dishes. As my anxiety around this realization began to build, to my relief, more arrived. This time they were served in a cast iron bowl, so all the delicious sauces collected at the bottom for me to scoop up and drizzle on top. So so so good!

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After all was said and done, I am very thankful I was invited and welcomed so warmly to this celebration. As a new comer to this city, new beginnings can be pretty overwhelming. Hamilton and more specifically the Hamilton food scene has welcomed me with open arms. The Aberdeen Tavern is a place that most Hamiltonian’s are very familiar with and whenever I bring it up to someone who lives here I always hear wonderful things about it. This event definitely met my expectations and I can’t wait to visit again soon. Especially for patio season!

So, thanks to everyone who I met last night and made me feel like part of the family! Cheers!

-Rach
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