Woke up at 6AM. The original plan was to wake up and do a day trip to Endoshima, Yokohama & Kawasaki area to visit the Endoshima sea candle, beach, Ramen museum, Japan’s largest Chinatown, the Cup Noodle Museum and Kawasaki Warehouse (giant arcade that is designed to look like the Forbidden City of Kowloon) however the prior day exceeded the groups energy threshold (we walked 29KM). Instead we decided to turn the day into a shopping – stay in Tokyo kind of day.
It was indeed a rainy day but luckily majority of the day was light rain. Now with John and Glenn with us, we all woke up rather early all starving. We walked over to Sushi Zanmai (Japan, 〒104-0045 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Tsukiji, 4 Chome−4−11−9) and ate our breakfast around 8AM (meal was more like lunch or dinner options) very early. I got the deluxe chirashi-don (1480y) and it was amazing and fresh. An assortment of 13 freshly selected types of seafood that covered a bed of rice.
After breakfast, our group split up with different intentions of what to do for the day. Stores don’t open until roughly 11AM so we wandered around. We passed by one temple where people were setting up their own booths for what looked like a flea market. I ended up browsing through one tent where this elderly couple had trays of old Japanese wooden toys where the heads bobbled. I restrained myself and only bought 3 for 1500y. We continued walking and made our way to Don Quijote where we spent a large amount of time purchasing items. Don Quijote is what you would say the Wal-mart of Japan would be because it has anything and everything you need whether its electronics, makeup, candy, food to laundry detergent. If you spend over a certain amount, you can present your passport (2nd floor cashier) and receive tax-free savings HOWEVER, if your purchase contained consumables (food) they will seal your purchase and you are not allowed to consume any of it or open the packaging until you have left Japan or potentially face a consumption fee at the customs.
We continued on after our rather large purchase (ok large for me). Stopped by a 100y store, BICQLO (5-7 floors of Uniqlo and Bic Camera), Comme Ca, Muji and a smaller more local Daiso. Cassie met up with us in Shinjuku for lunch and we went to a restaurant in a basement – Sutameshi DonDon – Tama Merchant building B1, B2, 3-34-14 Shinjuku Ku, Shinjuku – opened 24HR – Shinjuku where you order by a machine (luckily there was english and photos). I ordered the Sutameshi with cheese (780y) and you get an egg on the side to mix in. I had a runaway egg as I cracked it directly onto the my bowl where a bed of melted cheese acted as a ramp to throw it out of the bowl. Apparently, I did it all wrong. They give you a separate little bowl to crack the egg in and then stir it before you try to combine it with your meal. After lunch, we continued walking in the spritz rain to Awake which serves dango – delicious mochi desserts.
With the amount of shopping we did, our baggage was getting heavy so we returned back to you share loft and unpacked and repacked it into our luggages while we waited for our remaining 2 friends to join us. At this point of day, John and Glenn were enroute to Nara/Osaka and Cassie was exploring on her own and meeting up with Atene in Roppongi. We ended up waiting back at the share loft for Karen and Chi’s arrival. Their flight got delayed by an hour and we ended up napping a little too long waiting their arrival.
First thing on the list for the night – Chidori-ga-fuchi park – The park was illuminated to showcase the cherry blossoms but of course that brought out the crowds. It was a big walk around the park where it led to a dead end which you would then need to walk back from. It was a lovely view but I still wish I was able to see it during a nice sunny day.
Since Karen and Chi just landed, they really wanted to see Piss Alley and Golden Gai. We kept getting turned around at Shinjuku Station and went in a circle a few times before re-orienting ourselves in the correct direction to where we were the first day in Tokyo. We ended up eating at Tori-en Izakaya (Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, 新宿区Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−２−４) in Piss Alley where we sat on the second floor and ate a bit of everything.
We got back to the share loft and all of us started to repack our bags as we needed to create a overnight bag and go store our luggages at train stations since we were planning on staying overnight at the onsen.
As a full group of 15, we visited Aloha Stadium (99-500 Salt Lake Blvd) bright and early for their swap meet. We caught a bus that apparently went the long way around (should’ve caught the 42 but caught the 20 instead). Took about an hour to get there. The swap meet takes over the exterior perimeter of the stadium with tents set up and vendors sell everything and anything. Similar to ladies market in Hong Kong and any other markets you have ever been to.
Picked up souvenirs and lots of trinkets as well as some locally made foods. I also was able to find a beautiful double infinity bone necklace from the auntie who was selling real authentic Hawaiian costumes.
Back to Ala Moana mall for lunch – I had this amazing acai bowl ($7.95USD) from Grylt. Acai bowls are similar to a yogurt parfait but replace the base with acai frozen yogurt and place granola, honey, banana, strawberries and blueberries on top. And of course, went to Foodland for poke and also to grab mochi ice cream from Beard Papa. My friends wanted to visit some local stores like Fitted and Kicks / HI (1530 Makaloa St) where I bought my first 5 panel hat – Publish Gold Motif ($40 USD) which is this nice dark blue with gold floral. Headed over Walmart and bought everything macadamia nut then we caught the bus home and met up with our friend Justina who just arrived after major delays.
For dinner, went made reservations at Sansei Seafood & Sushi Bar by the beach at the Marriott. I ate the cucumber and wakame salad and Sansei Special Roll ($2.95 & $9.95USD). Went to Lawson (2255 Kalakaua Ave) where they also have Bubbies Ice cream mochi. So far on this trip, I’ve had 14 mochi’s and I still haven’t tasted every flavour and have only doubled twice. We didn’t want our night to end so we walked the beach at night to the end with the huge rainbow mural on the Hilton Hotel.
I had the opportunity to live in Vancouver for a month in 2014 with my friend Yolande. I spent a lot of time getting to know extended family, meeting new people from all walks of life and just enjoying the West Coast lifestyle with my “Toronto Crew that now reside in Vancity”. Instead of detailing the day-to-day of my time out west, this post will showcase what I ate and what I wanted to eat during my time in Vancouver.
EAT SUSHI! I cannot get over how cheap it is to dine on sushi here – a maki roll is around $3-4 but back home its like $8-14. Even with the cheaper price, the quality is superb in Vancouver- absolutely fresh.
The original Guu is located on Thurlow and it is the not only the original Guu but also the first Izakaya in Vancouver. As you enter, you will receive a very warm and loud welcome and same as you leave. Izakaya is similar to tapas and are all rather small sharing dishes to go along with drinks. The menu is quite diverse with food that is grilled or fried but they also have Udon noodle soups to beef sashimi to salads. The Original Guu is a small cozy establishment but you will be satisfied with all the flavours and atmosphere. There are multiple locations in Vancouver and also in Toronto.
Hubbub is the place to go if you want a fresh sandwich served on a toasty baguette. All you need to is to choose your protein and each sandwich comes with a base of pickled jalapenos, creamy garlic sauce, romaine lettuce, cilantro, and crunchy caramelized onions. I chose the pulled pork and it was absolutely delicious and with a sweet heat kicking.
Japadog offers gourmet hot dogs that are served Japanese-style. The location on Robson St is the only sit-down location. If you can’t make it to the actual sit down joint, you can find a few carts located around town such as the corner of Smithe & Burrard, Burrard & Pender. There is also a Japadog truck so keep an eye out. The Japadog truck and the restaurant location are the only ones that have the full extensive menus and offer their shaken fries. On one particular visit, We had the croquette (Fried mashed potato) dog and their Shichimi & Garlic tossed fries.
If you are hankering for a good burrito go no further than Steamrollers. The burritos here are fresh, tasty and made quickly. As their namesake tells you – they don’t deep fry or use grease but rather cook with steam. A traditional burrito starts around $7.25CAD and also have vegetarian options. You can also get gluten free options.
Breka Bakery smells heavenly with in-house baking of fresh breads. Not only does this bakery serve up some scrumptious breads, it also offers pastries to suit anyone’s tastes. Muffins, pretzels, cookies, donuts, pies and so much more. I ended up leaving this establishment with a cheesecake brownie which was large enough for 2 people. There is also a large selection for drink and meal options.
A spacious spot with welcoming vibes brings you to Greenhorn Café. Coffee, tea and espresso as well as breakfast and lunch are available. On weekends, the brunch selection is opened to include baked eggs and eggs benedict. I met a good friend here and grabbed a crimson berry (house blend) tea and a croissant.
The always-busy Twisted Fork Bistro serves up brunch the right way. Be sure to make a reservation because this place is always packed for the brunch run. It is a rather cozy spot but very comfy. I got the Gruyere baked eggs with sourdough toast, bacon, tomato, rosti and baked beans. Very flavourful and rich. Not sure why but we had decided to workout after this meal. Perfect meal on a cold day.
Sejuiced, is a vegetarian / vegan joint located in Kitsilano. It is the west coast version of Toronto’s Fresh – http://freshrestaurants.ca/ . There is an array of items on their menu such as soups, yogi bowls (bowl with rice or quinoa), sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, salads and even veggie burgers. They also have an extensive shakes and juices menu. For my visit, I had the mega protein salad with tofu ($12CAD).
This café is very quaint with French-inspired pastries. I went the sweet tooth root and had to get myself a peanut butter cookie sandwich and a croissant that almost rivals Thomas Haas’ double backed croissant. They also get very inventive with their pastries here.
A small yet cozy place with a patio to boot. The double baked almond croissants are amazing and go fast. It is a must stop if in the area. If a croissant isn’t up to your flavour, they offer a wide selection of chocolates, macarons, sandwiches, cakes and so much more. It is very difficult to choose just one item but don’t worry, you can purchase to take away with you for later. There is even a chance you might actually see Thomas Haas working while you visit.
49th Parallel is a coffee shop that locally roasts their own beans and serves pastries as well as Lucky’s Doughnuts. It is a great place to people watch through their glass walls and also get work done. I grabbed a salted caramel & a Mango /Passionfruit Bismarck donut from Lucky’s Donut. They were both delicious!
For fresh in-house handmade noodles, Shaolin Noodle House has a small selection but make that selection really well. You have the option to get the noodles dry or in soup and also different options for the type of noodles you want. Dragging noodles are hand-pulled and very long. Pushing is noodles that are flattened with a rolling pin then cut. Round is similar to pasta and udon shaped. And Cutting are pieces that are literally cut off from a ball of dough directly into the soup while it is cooking. I had the seafood and vegetables cutting noodle in soup and we shared lamb skewers and steamed dumplings – all so tasty and good.
Close-by to Shaolin Noodle is Peaceful Restaurant. Peaceful Restaurant was featured on Guy Fierti’s Diners, Drive-ins & Dives but even without that, this place deserves to be known – they do Chinese food well. They have hand pulled noodles but also amazing selection of dumplings. We got the Peaceful House Noodles, Spicy & Tangy Dumplings and Green onion beef (tender beef rapidly stir-fried with green onions & ginger). The green onion beef rolls were hands down the best thing ever and the noodles tasted so fresh.
Suika is a Japanese Izakaya – very animated decor with a sake bottle chandelier. Suika serves up creative and intricate mixes to provide a strong menu to make you come back for more. We (3 of us) shared the Tuna Avocado, Beef short rib, the Chicken Kara-age & the Kakuni Bibimbap – stewed pork belly, sweet dried shrimp & scallions on rice served in a hot stone bowl.
I absolutely love sushi and Vancouver seems to be the place for quality sushi for decent prices. A popular place for Sushi is California Sushi. I got the Energy Roll (unagi, asparagus etc) and it was of generous portions for being only $4CAD which is half the price than Toronto standards.
For family style chinese food – Congee Noodle is the place to go. Its more spacious than some other restaurants in the area. Between four people, we ordered the Giant fish congee, Gai lan (chinese broccoli), Dough fritter with rice roll around it, Scallop rice roll, Seafood chow mein, and half a chicken.
Located by the docks, this little shack serves up some fresh fish & chips options. We had cod fish and chips and the portions were large and a steal for it’s price. The island has little shops similar to Stevenson and a market place like Toronto’s St Lawrence Market
There are tons of local eats in Granville Island as well as great local coffee choices. Closed on Mondays.
You cannot leave Chinatown without visiting New Town Bakery. It feels like home when you are in there. An assortment of pastries & steamed buns are the main draw. The BBQ pork buns are to die for. It gets busy so grab a number once you enter. Cash Only.
Pizzeria Farina makes the dough fresh every morning and when they run out, they are done for the day. The freshest of ingredients. We were lucky enough to get the last 3 pizza doughs. We got the Funghi, The Speciale and the Finocchiona – they were all amazing but the funghi stole the show for me. The pizza’s range from $10-17CAD in price. They also make their own oregano and chili infused olive oils which you could also purchase.
Phnom Penh is probably one of the most talked about musts for places to eat in Chinatown. It is hard to get a spot in this restaurant so make reservations. Serving up Vietnamese – Cambodian dishes, this institution is always busy and the food always worth the wait. I ate with a group of 8. We got individual items but shared a plate of fried chicken wings to share and the spice that put in it were so good that it made up for the fact there wasn’t actually too much meat on the bones. I got the beef stew with egg noodles, a dry egg noodle dish with organ meat like liver and other meats and a rice dish with meat, a over easy egg and cabbage.
Wildebeest is a meat centric offering in Gastown prepared and served family-style. They also source ingredients from local sources to create a fun and intricate menu. It is also a secret spot for brunch.
Save on Meats – http://saveonmeats.ca/diner/ – 43 West Hastings St
This building was built in 1891 and you can’t miss the neon pig sign on Hastings. This place is serving up the classic diner foods and all day breakfast. Sheppard pie, Salisbury steak and burgers make this place what it is.
Revolver Coffee is all about the simplicity and quality of their coffee and the experience around it. There is very intricate selection of coffees and also methods of brewing. The décor is an add plus.
In the heart of Gastown, this establishment is a slightly pricier restaurant with a good selection of alcohol but also delicately put together menu. I went with a group of 6 and we came with an appetite. We ordered pretty much 75% of the menu to share. Everything was delicious.
Our Appetizers to share:
-Brusselsprouts and bacon
-Mac & Cheese
-Albacore Tuna with Artichoke
-Butter Lettuce & Citrus
-Beet and endive salad
-Oysters with mignonette sauce
-French Onion Soup with Gruyere & Croutons
-Grilled Cheese with Spicy Tomato & Fennel Soup
-Roasted Bone Marrow with Sea Salt, Pickled Radish, Parsley, Grilled Bread
-Smoked Salmon with Potato Salad, Dill, Crispy Capers, Beet & Endive Salad with Apple, Walnuts, Blue Cheese Dressing as starters.
The main course meals we ordered:
-3 Cornish Game Hen with Grilled Romaine (romaine that is dressed in Caesar dressing then bbq/charred – need to try this out at home!)
The main chef at Red Wagon uses french inspiration in his cooking which turned this place from a hole in the wall into a cozy diner for good eats. Guy Fieri left his seal of approvable from Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. This place has line-ups out the door but luckily it wasn’t too busy and we only had to wait 15-20 minutes. I had the Pulled Pork Pancakes (3 buttermilk pancakes layered with pulled pork with Jack Daniels -spiked maple syrup) and let me tell you it was so filling and so unbelievably good. Usually I crave pancakes because of the smell but the taste is usually not as satisfying and only a few bites in I no longer desire to eat it but I cleaned my plate (took some time because it was so filling). The chef also opened up le wagon rouge, which is their bistro restaurant.
If you are craving matcha then Basho Cafe is the spot for you. Basho is a family run Japanese café that will feel like home. You can choose to indulge with a matcha latte or the wide array of pastries that feature matcha.The pastries are baked daily and the menu changes daily. They also serve up a special set menu that includes a small cup of soup, veggies as well as mini sweets in addition to your main.
Merchants is owned by Doug Stephen and one of the chefs was my cousin’s friend. They use locally sourced, organic ingredients. We started off with drinks – an old fashioned and myself a Gin Digger (did you know a digger is what a Caesar’s real name and it originated in Calgary). We decided to order we would order our own 4 course meals $40 (sharing as well). For our snacks, we both grabbed baked oysters with truffle cream. Before we got our 1sts, they brought out a special plate for us for an event they had prepped and had extras to spare. It was parsley served 20 different ways with a little help with panna cotta. My favourite item was the parsley chip; so tasty yet so delicate. For the first dish, we grabbed the beef tartare served on crostini with Sriracha and pickled shallots and Gnocchi with black garlic (this is expensive so not used in many places) & pickled garlic. We both got the Ling Cod with kimchi, smoked egg yolk and swiss chard. Finished off with chocolate ganache with cumin, caramel & pistachio as well as a Blood orange tart with browned butter and marshmallows. The food was phenomenal and the service was great.
This place is a cozy spot on Commercial Dr with live music courtesy of La Santisima – traditional Mexican songs – every Sunday. Their selection of mezcal spans the wall with an open concept kitchen and bar so you can see what they are doing and making. La Mezcaleria is such a cute little place. We took a sit up at the bar in front of the chefs working away at making all the dishes.
We had the Campechano Flight (a flight of both the red snapper and tuna ceviche’s, guacamole and pico de gallo served with chips), We also grabbed Tostadas de Pato (Fraser Valley duck confit, guava, fruit mole sauce (manchamanteles), chayote squash and radish), Tinga de pollo (free range chicken with chorizo in a chipotle tomato sauce, topped with Mexican cheese and sour cream) & Al Pastor (pork marinated in achiote chilli and pineapple) tacos and ended off with flan for dessert. I also ordered take-away for a friend. I ordered Tinga de Pollo and De Cachet (braised beef cheeks) tacos. Great vibe, great people and great food.
Bright and early again we had awoken to hit the road towards Squamish. We arrived at 8AM and began our ascent. It is a slightly difficult hike/climb. All that heavy breathing and heavy legs going up plus the fact I kept stopping made me the last in the pack. It didn’t help the fact I was also carrying my camera bag up this steep climb. We made it to the fork in the road to Peak 1 and 2 so we decided to goto 1 instead of 2. We were lucky to have good weather as this ascension would have been even more difficult if it were raining and wet. There are parts that are actual wooden stairs that change into stepping stones to even areas where you need to hold a chain to pull yourself up. We made it to the top and had a little break and snack while taking in the views before heading down.
On our descent, we met a 45 year old lady named Deb who was originally from North York, ON and went to Queens and McMaster University but moved out to BC. She hadn’t climbed Squamish in almost 14 years but did it with her family so her kids would know how to get down. As we went down, we talked about travel especially Cambodia and Laos. By the end when we reached the bottom at Shannon falls, all our legs were quivering. The best is that we finished around 11AM so we had plenty of time to stop at lookout points such as Porteau Cove and had time to shop and eat at Aberdeen Centre in Richmond before Vicky had to catch her flight. The Daiso sells items for around $2 and has all sorts of products which I definitely recommend visiting – It reminded me of Japan so much. There is an extensive array of food in the food court.
We dropped off Vicky at 330PM and then dropped Joanne off at her cousins. We made it back to her apartment to hang for a bit before Jordan came and picked us up for dinner. We were meeting with one of our friend Lisa who also moved to Vancouver. Our location for dinner was The Eatery for some fun sushi. They had very interesting decor with a huge makeshift Astroboy above the bar and their slogan – miso horny with faces like Bruce Lee, Mao and a few others. That place was definitely dark though. We got the Queen roll, Paper Crane and San Francisco plus the seafood Okonomiyaki. The Queen roll was by far the best.
We flew to Vancouver via Air Canada. We rented a car (2014 Volkswagon Jetta – almost brand spanking new with only 2000KM) from Alamo. We took to the road and drove to meet with our friend Ben who works at BMO. We helped load his SUV with items to prep for the BMO – Okanagan Marathon in Kelowna. Had lunch at Edge Cafe. From there, we then hit the open road and drove 4-5 hours to Kelowna. Jo was first to drive but couldn’t make it past 45 minutes so I took over. The ride up was interesting as the weather shifted quickly and there was chances of ice and snow and chains on tires. We’re staying at the Delta vacation condos with 5 in the apartment (Joanne’s sister Marisa will join us in the morning). We finally arrived and drove around part of the town and ended up at Yamas for Greek food. Greek ribs with prawns were good but so salty.
Woke up early and went to workout. When everyone had awoken, we went to De Dutch for breakfast before heading off to pick up and drop off items at the run site. We spent the day setting up our space in the event tent which consisted of 2 tented areas to give away gloves, thunder sticks, apples, massages and where people can come to make signs to cheer on competitors. We finished relatively early and decided to drive to Vernon which is about 45min drive away to have dinner and see Marisa’s boyfriend Joshua and his family at Sir Winston’s for cheap wing night. We ended up at their home which is massive and overlooks Vernon with the lake view. The drive back to Kelowna was stressful seeing as there are no lights on the highway along the mountain so it was interesting flying down at 120-150KM turning around bends and trying to follow the person in front of you through the darkness. We got back with enough time to hit the hot tub for half an hour.
We had prepped enough the previous day so our start time for the race prep was noon. We drove over the bridge to Westbank and had White Spot for breakfast then onto Mission Hills Winery for some wine tasting and to purchase gifts for Yolande and Thanksgiving dinner with their extended family. It was perfect timing as we made it back in time to grab the last of the tents and officially set up our BMO stations in the tents.
Once everything was completely set-up, we drove back to Vancouver around 2PM. Joanne drove the whole way with one pit stop to get gas. She decided to make a buddy on the highway to follow but alas with us going 180KM we lost him because he floored it. We made it back in record time of 3 hours. We did however hit traffic once we got into Vancouver but that is to be expected. I cannot tell you enough about how Vancouver reminds me of Hong Kong with a little mix of Japan & Los Angeles on certain streets and a bit of Sydney too. We made our way to downtown Vancouver to meet with Yolande. We settled in for a bit before we drove to the airport to pick Vicky up. For dinner, we ate at Matsuyama in Richmond for fresh sushi! It was the after 9PM menu so it was cheaper and the food was pretty good. The sashimi slices are so thick and enormous. There aren’t any all-you-can-eat places in Vancouver however their sushi is the best (better than some of the best in Toronto). Nelson and Jordan joined us for dinner as well.
I had agreed to shoot the morning portion of Miranda’s wedding day so I had to wake up bright and early (only 3-4 hours of sleep for me) to head to her parent’s place. Her parents live right by the harbourfront overlooking part of Stanley Park and a yacht club but nonetheless the view from above (23 floors up) is unreal.
The ceremony was lovely. Miranda & Tom made the vows creatively echo one another. The wedding cake was actually the cupcake table where they had a cupcake periodic table. (Tom is a Bio Chemist)
We decided to go on a detour after to Thomas Haas for tea, coffee and the famous double baked croissants. Made it back to the apartment for a bit then off to Richmond where we went for the reception at Empire Seafood where we arrived just as the bridal party was making their entrances.
A lovely 10 course meal. The bridal party was very creative and performed like no tomorrow. They even performed a re-enactment of how Miranda and Tom met and proposed. They even sang “I’ll Never Break your Heart” by Backstreet Boys in Cantonese. By the end of the night, we took over the photo booth.