I realized that Black + Blue is a widely debated restaurant on Urbanspoon as the rating of the restaurant is outstandingly low. Last Friday, I paid a visit to explore the restaurant and find the reason of its controversy.

Before I comment on the quality of the food, the interior design of Black + Blue is truly impressive. I wonder if the main focus of the restaurant is the design or if the food would be equally good.

The collection of steak seems complete so we ordered a lobster tail to come with an 8oz PEI Blue Ribbon. For appetizer we decided to have a simple organic salad and the mashed potato is ordered as a side dish.

The organic looked ordinary and I was surprised that all the dishes are served at the same time. Since the table was small, I don’t understand why the salad, side dish, steak and the sauce were brought to the table at the same time.

The steak came with the extra lobster tail. The steak was well done as medium and the texture of the meat is juicy and tender. The big disappointment was on the lobster. Since the meat of the lobster tail was soggy, I assume it’s been frozen before cooked and served. The lobster was practically tasteless and it was small for a $22 lobster tail.

The mash potato was normal and tasteless. I wouldn’t order it again just as a matter of fact. The three sauces were nice to try on the steak. However, the barbeque sauce was quite ordinary so overall the meal was not too impressive.

Finally, we decided to have a berry crumble with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I am not sure if saying the dessert is good is a compliment or if it is an indication that the main courses are not satisfying. Anyway, the berry crumble is decent but not impressive.

I would say that the rating on Urbanspoon is too low for this restaurant but I wouldn’t rate this restaurant over sixty either. The service was not amicable at all and our server seemed impatient when introducing the dishes so I wouldn’t came back anymore.

Black + Blue on Urbanspoon

Last Sunday, I decided to pay a visit to Zest, a quiet restaurant on 16th avenue. The restaurant opened in 2005, led by the Executive Chef Yoshiaki Maniwa. In 2012, Zest was rated as the Best Upscale Japanese Restaurant in Vancouver.

We were the first table to be seated and the chefs were just getting ready for the evening. I ordered some genmai-cha and looked through the menu. Recommended by our server, we decided to share one Zest Tasting Course and one Zest Dinner Course. The portion was about right for two people. Since there would be sashimi (mostly fish) in many courses and the nirigi would have fish too, we chose the Bavette Steak instead of the sable fish as main course.

The Sashimi salad came right after we ordered, together with a small bowl of spinach gomaae. There were slices of salmon, tuna and surf clam on the seaweed and organic greens. The soy sauce dressing mixed extremely well with the oceanic flavor of the sashimi.

The seafood sunomono had some sliced octopus and more surf clam in it. I am a surf clam lover personally as the flavor of this clam is sweet and the texture is chewy. The vinaigrette jelly and cucumber were refreshing.

Hassun means “small appertizers” in Japanese. The hassun at Zest were original and delicious. The crab meat salad (on the left) is rich and flavorful. The deep fried salmon (on the left) with vinaigrette is original. The tuna carpaccio is fresh but not worth having again but the green beans with sesame sauce is quite special.

The fluffy chilly prawn was spicy and savory but the prawns were a little over-cooked and the shell of the prawn was not crispy at all. This is probably another dish that I wouldn’t try again at Zest.

The tempura was average considering that it was nicely laid out but, again, the prawns were over-fried and the yam was not sweet at all.

The sautée chicken had the best sauce I’ve tasted so far in this meal. The honey garlic sauce blended well with the natural flavor of the chicken thigh. The chicken was juicy and savory as the portion was small but considering there are more to come, it was alright.

The Bavette steak with apple slices and bean sprout on top was our last main course. The beef was a little tough but the miso flavor was quite delicious. The sauté mushrooms underneath the steak were soft and flavorful. However, I would recommend the sable fish as the main course in the Dinner Tasting Course rather than the steak.

Finally, the nirigi was brought to the table. We had a variety of sashimi on the nirigi, such as yellowtail, salmon, octopus, albercore tuna, etc. The nirigi came from the chef’s daily selection of the freshest seafood, tasted light and natural. The nirigi’s quality was impressive and delicious.

We had the green tea tiramisu and sake & raisin ice cream. The tiramisu was mediocre but the sake & raisin ice cream was amazing. The flavor of the sake was not too strong but just enough to lighten the usual creamy flavor of ice cream. The combination of the raisin has the flavor of western red wine mixing with the eastern flavor of the sake.

Despite several dishes that were not as impressive, both the Tasting Course and the Dinner Course were carefully laid out and definitely picked the freshest ingredients. The price was on the expensive side since the portions of the dishes were small and a dinner like ours without alcohol was about $110 for two people. The service was decent and the ice cream was excellent!

Zest on Urbanspoon

Another Sunday afternoon, I decided to visit a newly moved restaurant on Broadway – Q4. Quattro on Fourth got its name as the original restaurant was opened on 4th Avenue, but now moved to 2563 West Broadway.

As I made the reservation for six o’clock, there were only a few tables occupied. The interior design is classy and tasteful with many bottles of fine wine the cellar. Q4 also has a semi-private room for big parties where we sat next to.

We took a look at the menu and decided to try the antipasto platter, which has an assortment of antipasto in small portions. For pasta, we chose the house-made potato gnocchi with classic Bolognese and for secondi we chose the striploin steak and frites.

The antipasto platter is beautifully arranged and full of traditional Italian delicacies. I developed two favorites among all the antipasto: bruschetta and radicchio bocconcini. As both of them are traditional Italian appetizers, bruschetta has its origin dated to at least the 15th century. The bruschetta at Q4 has crispy baguette toast topped with basil, fresh tomato, onion and a hint of garlic, making it refreshing and tasteful. The fresh marinated mozzarella with prosciutto was wrapped with radicchio leaves then grilled to make the radicchio bocconcini.

Soon after the antipasto was done, the house-made potato gnocchi was brought to the table. Gnocchi is a common type of soft dumplings that is made out of flour, potato, egg and sometimes cheese. The potato gnocchi at Q4 was extremely soft with a hint of spice from the Bolognese sauce.

Last but not least, we had the main course – striploin steak with French fries and green salad. I asked the striploin to be medium as the meat was cooked but not tough at all. An assortment of different mushrooms was under the striploin, a great combination with the black peppercorn sauce. Striploin and frites is a typical French course, but with an Italian twist of the sauce and mushroom, the main course became one of the most popular dish at Q4. Of course, the French fries are worth mentioning too, crispy and flavorful with Q4′s homemade ketchup.

The chef of Q4 – Alexandre Jolin greeted us after the main course and presented us two lovely desserts. He introduced the Ciliege Filate, which is candied phyllo pastry layered with mascarpone cheese and cherry red wine sauce.

The hospitable chef also made a special dessert for us from his daily inspiration – lightly fried doughnut ball, topped with cranberry sauce. The doughnut balls were puffy and not so oily as the mint leaves also created a slight freshness to the dessert.

The service was courteous and pleasant. The dishes use the freshest ingredients and all the pasta are handmade daily works. The dining experience at Q4 can be considered truly as a fine bottle of Conti Costanti – smooth and elegant.

Q4 on Urbanspoon


The Sunday streets of Vancouver were tranquil and clean as always. I paid a casual visit to a familiar restaurant on 4th avenue, Bistro Bistro.

Opened since 2007, Bistro Bistro has established a subtle reputation in Vancouver as the cozy kitchenette in Kitslano. The restaurant was particularly quiet in the late afternoon of last Sunday.

Greeted warmly by the manager of the restaurant, we sat at a table beside the window. I examined the menu carefully and a glass bottle of water was brought to the table. Most of the dishes on Bistro Bistro’s menu don’t change. The bold lettered dishes are the most popular ones. I decided to order the warm onion tart as appetizer, a Beouf Bourguignon and a Duck Confit with macaroni and cheese to share as main dishes.

While we waited for our dishes, warm baguette with olive dip and salted buttered were served. Traditionally, the baguette must be backed in a brick oven to keep its most original flavor. The baguette of Bistro Bistro is crispy and crunchy on the outside, but a little too tough inside. This might not tbe the most ideal baguette for elder people or traditional baguette lover, however, the olive dip is worth trying.

The warm caramelized onion tart came fairly quickly. It is my favorite dish among all the dishes that I’ve tried at Bistro Bistro. The tart shell is crispy and buttery and the baked stuffing is rich and delicious. If you are interested in trying to cook this dish at home, the recipe is open to you too.

The boeuf bourguignon is cooked slowly in a big casserole. Traditionally, boeuf bourguignon is cooked with red Burgundy wine in a stew and added pearl onion and mushroom before served. The boeuf bourguignon is extremely tender, as I had to use a spoon to scoop the savory beef onto my plate.

The duck confit was placed on a bed of creamy macaroni and cheese that was baked in a shallow casserole. Macaroni and cheese is first mentioned in an old English cookbook, but later became popular throughout North America. Macaroni and cheese is evidently not a traditional French pasta, but having the crispy duck confit with soft, gooey macaroni is a wise combination by the chef.

Finally, after overloaded amount of carbohydrate, we decided to order the chocolate mousse for dessert. It was not the wisest choice after equally overloaded amount of oil but the mousse is a popular dessert because it is freshly made in the restaurant.

Overall, the dinning experience is quite pleasant considering the portion of the dishes are on the small side but the quality is decent. The price is a acceptable for a French bistro and the service is excellent.

Bistrot Bistro on Urbanspoon


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