Monthly Archive for July, 2006

Memphis Blues Smokehouse-GUEST POST!!!

Mendacious D. brings it.  I would add some crazy Canadian was talking up Slimz or some such place as a rival to this one, but we know nothing, you decide.

What I will decide is that if we can accomadate Gregor and our various vegetarians, when 3B wins the lottery, our convention committee will consider this as a possible site.  It goes without saying that anyone that could get there, it would be our treat.

I would add I just had a wonderful night with some friends at a very mediocre BBQ place.  The University of Suck and its environs knows not the ways.  So unfortunately I am harbo(u)ring a burning jealousy of Mendacious D and his laden platters of meat doncha know.

Here’s the scoop:

Nestled at just off the corner of Granville and Broadway, arguably one of the most hellish and garment-rending of intersections in Vancouver, lies a Mecca of meat: the Memphis Blues. Savvy Vancouverites know there are two of them in the city, but this is the original. Its descendant lies in wait on Commercial Drive, better known as hippy central, seemingly mocking the puritanical preachings of vegeterianism’s most ardent supporters. This is better put in context when you see a vegetarian or two wander in unawares, to look at the menu and cringe. More than once, I have witnessed fleeing non-customers being yelled at by the manager as they scamper away to Earl’s or some other, lesser, restaurant.

Actual quote: “What? We’ve got salads.”

This is technically true, even though most of the salads involve pulled pork. Their tshirt collection says it all: “We pull pork,” “Best rack in town,” and so on. They are proud of the carnivorous urges which draw us there, having an open kitchen where all can gaze lovingly as they slow-cook ribs and briskets, lathering them in sauce and arranging them with cornbread, chili, chips, wings, and all manner of artery-clogging goodness.

But all this pales in comparison to the Memphis Blues’ magnum opus: the Elvis Platter.

Imagine a large number of different kinds of meat. Now add several more you didn’t think of, like pheasant (but no emu, as yet). The last time I counted, this masterwork included jerk chicken, chicken wings, pulled pork, brisket, short ribs, long ribs, and the aforementioned pheasant. Add slaw, cornbread, chips, and a large dollop of barbeque sauce. Feeds four. For two to three days. You get a stack of napkins several inches high. I don’t need to fill you in on how this works. It is a carnivorous feast worthy of The King of Rock’n’Roll himself.

Add their selection of bottled beers (almost all Czech), the perenially crowded standing-room-only atmosphere, and the posters and photos of blues artists and slow-smokers (one of which I swear was salvaged from a jet turbine), and you have yourself one hell of a restaurant.

Verdict: Eleven out of one. Deeeeeelicious.”

Beard Papa’s Japanese Cream Puffs


Sadly you need to be in Asia or the coasts to try these bad boys.  A highly successful Japanese chain is now expanding int the US, ready to shoot for the moon and then flame out a la Krispy Kreme (stock wise, you know I love them).  Some may claim these cream puffs are overrated. They would be wrong.  Actually, these puffs underline clear divides in how people function with relation to expectation vs. hype vs. actual taste.  Many people assume cream puffs should have a custardy filling, thus when they taste the relatively thin cream filling here (very light) they are disappointed or they think it is wrong.  Others used to Western baking expect them to be much sweeter, and when they taste the Japanese style baking that uses less sugar, they are disoriented.  Others think that the wait in line affects the taste.  It does not.  Too bad if lots of people want to try them.  They seem to have chocolate and vanilla flavored all the time with a rotating third flavor.  We had vanilla and chocolate.  Both were quite good, but the chocolate was outstanding.  Both very light, yet tasting of rich, darker chocolate at the same time, it was exceptional.  I would definitely go back. They are a bit pricey, but what the hell isn’t?  Don’t rain on my cream puff, haters.

Verdict:  Goddamned delicious.

Omakase at Tojo’s Restaurant


Omakase, as is elaborately described in the menu at Tojo’s in Vancouver, is all about trust. Literally, it means ‘chef I am in your hands’, and nowhere is this truer and more desirable than Tojo’s. AG and I read countless reviews of the restaurant basically stating that one need not bother travelling to Tokyo for the finest sushi in the world; why not go to Tojo’s?

When considering ordering Omakase, there are two key questions that need be answered. First of all, do you trust Mr. Tojo? I did. AG, not so much. The second question is how much debt do you want to assume following the meal. The prices begin at $60 CAD and go up to no limit. Can you imagine ordering food without limits? I couldn’t. I chose the $80 version, trying not to sound too amateurish or too bold at the same time.

The menu describes a process where you then discuss your food likes and dislikes with the waiter, to properly customize the dishes you will receive from Mr. Tojo. Our waitress asked me one question, and one question only: Do you have any allergies? No. Good. That was it. I had to trust Mr. Tojo from here on.

Course 1: Raw appetizer

The first dish was quite exciting. The waitress brought it out with a big smile and told me that I was getting some kind of raw albacore tuna salad in a marinated soy sauce. It had different peppers and herbs mixed in as well. The appearance was not unlike that of raw gefilte fish, a fact I was delighted to share with AG, but the taste was fantastic. Delicate, savory, daring, and oh so raw. It looked a little like this dish from their website, but was a little different


Course 2: Cooked appetizer

A different waiter brought out the next course, which was also explained to me in sparse detail. I think it consisted of slices of lightly torched salmon perched over a mixture of shiso leaves and a few other wild greens, which topped a shredded salad of mushrooms, avocado, eggplant, and other uncharacterized items mixed in a creamy sauce. It was good. Very good. The shiso leaves have a strong taste that influenced all the other tastes, but once you are used to the flavour, it becomes very addctive.

Course 3: Cooked appetizer

With each subsequent dish, the explanations got shorter while the food grew apparently more elaborate. The next dish was titled as halibut cheek. Which it was. Many people do not consider the craniofacial components of fish as a savoury treat, but I have to say that fish cheek is wonderful. The texture is soft and buttery, kind of like, well, my cheeks. Just lightly cooked, and served with some other delicate greens in a complex and fantastic sauce. I think the sauce was a mixture of teriyaki sauce, fish sauce, and L-DOPA. Very exquisite.

Course 4: Cooked sushi

As usual, I was only offered a short explanation of what I was getting: Suntan tuna. It was basically three pieces of tuna wrapped in seaweed, then dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. The way it comes out, the inside is completely raw, while the outside, interacting with the crispy batter was more cooked. The pieces were cut like maki, and it was served with a sweet and tangy sauce. They were very nice, albeit not particularly substantial. I was a little concerned that this was the main course, and I was not going to be sated, but I was reassured that the main even was coming next …

Course 5: Sushi

When the main course was finally served to me, I gave an inquisitive look to the waiter, hoping to get the rundown on what I was about to eat. The waiter just snickered and walked off. Not quite the gut busting laugh of Mr. Tojo (pictured above), but definitely a chuckle of some kind. Well, I trusted Mr. Tojo. It was time to put that trust in place. Sadly, I have no idea what the four pieces of maki and two pieces of nigiri really were. I presume they were taken from the regular menu, but am not really sure. Mr. Tojo’s maki is quite extraordinary. For example, AG ordered a Great Canadian roll, which included lobster, asparagus, and smoked salmon. Suffice to say that the sushi was vivid, unpredictable, and wonderfully syngergistic. One of the nigiri may have been sablefish, and another may have been a toro that the waitress told us is only availabe a few times a year. Who’s to say. It was phenomenal.

Epilogue: Dessert

Nothing too fancy here. A nice scoop of mango ice cream, which AG got as well on the house, with a few tasty garnishes.

Overall the dining experience was unlike anything I’ve ever had. Between eating outside with a view of downtown Vancouver and the mountains behind it, and eating foods I have never had before, or combinations of foods that were novel to me, it was a most wonderful way to spend a Saturday night in Vancouver. But don’t take my word for it. Just trust Mr. Tojo.

Verdict – Delicious

UPDATE:  Pictures and better descriptions of some items at this here fine blog