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

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

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

Recipe: Easy, Cheesy Bacon Chicken Bake

This is my first time creating a recipe from only what I had available in the kitchen. This chicken bake is refreshing, delicious and indulgent. With 5 simple ingredients, it’s easy to make and in no time, you’ve got a satisfying dinner. You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of basmati rice
  • 1 (796ml) can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheese
  • 1tbsp of Italian seasoning
  • 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 2 large)
  • 1 package of bacon (cooked and chopped)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dried parsley flakes for garnish

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 9×12 baking dish, combine the diced tomatoes (with juice), rice and half of the Italian seasoning. Place chicken breasts on top of tomato mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remaining Italian seasoning. Cover with tinfoil and place in preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, based on size of chicken breasts.

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Check the chicken once or twice to be sure that it is fully cooked. Also check to see that the rice is fully cooked from the tomato juice. If not, add a 1/4 cup of water and cook for another 5 minutes.

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Once fully cooked, sprinkle shredded cheese and chopped bacon on top and return to the oven until the cheese has melted and started to lightly brown. Approximately 5 minutes.

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Garnish with dried parsley flakes. Serve immediately.

I served this dish on its own as it was pretty filling but a fresh salad or grilled vegetable would be a great addition. The tomatoes bring a juicy freshness, combined with the gooey cheese and crunchy, salty bacon, it’s to die for!

Try this out and give me your feedback in the comments below!

Happy eating!

-Rach