The other night, Akemi and I checked out one of the buzziest Taiwanese restaurants in Vancouver, the well-reviewed, foodie favorite: Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant.  Akemi has a couple of Taiwanese friends who swear by the place and so, more than a little intrigued, we headed out to Victoria Street to see (and taste) for ourselves.

The restaurant is notoriously busy.  Reservations are recommended. And arriving promptly for your reservations is also strongly advised. Not wishing to take any chances, we booked a table for 5:30 p.m. and arrived early – only to realize it doesn’t open until 5:30 p.m.  And so, after a stroll through the neighborhood, we were at the door – then at our table – on time for our reservations.

It didn’t get busy until 6:00 p.m. or so at which point the tiny room was packed, mostly with – from what I could tell – regulars.  Prior to that, however, we had the place – and the staff – more or less to ourselves.  The service was attentive, friendly, and downright warm. We placed our orders and our dishes arrived sooner after, all bold, wonderfully balanced flavors.  Some of the highlights included…

Pig ear
Spicy pig’s ear.

Not for everyone but I love the texture – crunchy and chewy – and Kalvin’s version is, by far, the best I’ve ever had.  We were asked to specify a spice level and we elected to go medium, which packed a nice little kick.  Next time, I think I might hazard the hot.

Chicken
Diced chicken and peanuts with chili peppers

The restaurant offers many traditional Taiwanese dishes but, as the name implies, some Szechuan fare as well – like the above dish, Akemi’s favorite.  A robust and, yes, fiery dish.  Despite their size, the chicken morsels are moist and tender, a step above the tougher, drier versions I’ve had elsewhere.

Pork
Shredded pork with garlic and chili sauce

This one came highly recommended on a couple of the foodie blogs and I wasn’t disappointed.  Also spicy but possessed of an aromatic spice I couldn’t quite place that simply wowed.

We rounded things out with a hearty, slightly sweet corn soup, 5-spice beef rolls, and a spring roll.  Throughout our meal, Chef and Owner Kalvin himself popped out of the kitchen – when it wasn’t too busy – to see how we were enjoying what we’d ordered.  And then, as more customers filed in, he broke off to greet them – most by name.  I felt like I was in the Cheers of Taiwanese restaurants.

According to Kalvin, his restaurant will celebrate 30 years in business this year.  30 years!  Given my first-time experience – and the obvious loyalty of his cliente – I’m not at all surprised.

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Chef Kalvin and (I believe) his wife.

Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant (604-321-2888)

Open for lunch and dinner daily (except Wednesdays)

5225 Victoria Dr
Vancouver

Then, on Saturday, Akemi and I paid a return visit to the Bakers Market.  This time, Bubba stayed home so Akemi was free to take her time and roam the aisles.  Like last weekend, we loaded up on a variety of treats –

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First stop was Mamaz Sweetz N’ Treatz where I picked up –
Red velvet chocolate chip cookie
Red velvet white chocolate chip cookies.  Surprisingly, this was the first time I’d had red velvet in cookie form.  A winner.

Last week, I picked up chocolate biscotti from home baker Giada Vacca’s Treats and Blossoms.  On this visit, these caught my eye –

Amaretti
Amaretti – crunchy AND chewy, a tough balance to pull off.

A return visit to my friend at Life’s Lemons…

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Last weekend, I was their first sale ever.  This weekend, they apparently sold out.  I’m clearly a trendsetter.
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This time out, it was the Apple Pie shortbread cookies that tasted…yes, amazingly like apple pie!
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[in the oven] offers assorted caramels and a killer salted caramel sauce.
The owner recognized me from last weekend and asked how I enjoyed the caramel sauce.  I admitted that I hadn’t tried it yet because I’d run out of ice cream.  “You can eat it right out of the jar,”she assured me. “I won’t judge you.”  Well, I forgot to pick up ice cream on the way back home so I did end up trying it right of out of the jar after all.  And it was unbelievable.

Don’t judge me!

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The gals from Sweet Talk, bakers of my surprise favorite on last weekend’s visit: the lemon poppyseed cake.  And, this weekend, I discovered they bake a pretty mean chocolate salted caramel tart.
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And a return visit to Sweet Lily, this time for –
x
Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and lime cornmeal cookies.
x
Maple bourbon pecan brioche.
x
The ladies of (my favorite cupcakes) Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets and treats
x
Chocolate cupcake, red velvet cupcake, and cheesecake brownie.
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The plan was to just sample a bit (so we could try a bit of everything) and have the rest after dinner.  Well, that WAS the plan.

Baker’s Market – Bakers Market – The Sweetest Event in Vancouver

Treats and Blossoms | Facebook

Life’s Lemons- sweet treats baking co. – Vancouver, BC – Community …

[in the oven]

http://wangamylee.wix.com/sweettalk

Sweet Lily Bakery – Vancouver, BC – Food & Grocery | Facebook

Vivi’s cupcakes, sweets & treats – Vancouver, BC … – Facebook

Finally, what sweet Saturday would be complete without a visit to Vancouver’s premiere chocolate shop: Beta 5.  Their selection changes monthly and, this weekend, they kicked off their April Union Pack with an outdoor theme: “On the Forest Floor”.  Among the offerings are “deer droppings” (a mix of 63% dark chocolate covered raisins, and 39% milk chocolate covered peanuts), melt-in-your-mouth “candy cap caramels” (earthy, sweet Candy Cap mushrooms captured in a buttery, caramel bite with a flavor reminiscent of maple syrup)…

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French Toast Toadstools: house made brioche soaked in a ganache of “blonde” chocolate maple syrup, cinnamon and rum, then paired with a dollop of spiced apple butter.  Unbelievable.
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Chocolate twigs: 45% milk chocolate and 63%, 72% and 85% dark chocolate sticks dusted with cocoa powder and presented on a bed of matcha white chocolate.  Akemi’s favorite!
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Bark: olive oil and salt roasted Marcona almond, blended with 50% milk chocolate from Madagascar, and finished with a touch of flaked sea salt.  Nearly impossible to stop eating once you start.


They ship!  http://beta-5.com/

Our Supermovie of the Week Club reconvenes tomorrow with guest film reviewer, Cookie Monster, weighing in on his latest superhero-themed screening: Super Capers.  If you haven’t already seen it in preparation for tomorrow’s discussion – spoiler alert! – it’s beyond awful.  Don’t bother.  But do stop in to check out monster’s thoughts on what could arguable be the worst superhero movie yet.

For Cookie’s previous supermovie reviews (as well as his opinion on Snakes on a Plane and There Will Be Blood), head on over here: http://cookiemonstermovereviews.wordpress.com/ 

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Deni

I blew my diet to go to the yearly crawfish boil one of my daughter’s friends throws in Tampa. The food was ok, but nothing worth blowing my diet over. Shoulda tagged along with you! smile

DP
DP

There’s this book called Macarons, Math, Science, and Art that was free on the Kindle the other day and somehow I ended up browsing it. I discovered they are gluten-free.

French Toast Toadstools. That’s some complicated French Toast.

Thanks for the warning not to watch the Supermovie. I’m nearly caught up on my TV shows and I need a break. Heeeeyy, there were a couple The Ring-esque moments in Doctor Who S07E06 The Bells of St. John. It was one of the worst episodes, but seemed like it included a couple of nods to The Ring before it fell into non-sense.

Jeremy
Jeremy

Hi Joe,
Long time reader, first comment. I should have chimed in when you were making the superhero movie list, but I’m the quiet type.
I think you are missing three decent superhero flicks. “Special”(2006), “Defendor”(2009), and “Super”(2010). There is also “Orgazmo”(1997) but that is merely for laughs.

Tam Dixon
Tam Dixon

Those food pictures have me drooling!

2cats

Oh my, my, my… admit it Joe, you’re happiest visiting all these amazing food places in Van, eating everything in sight and then writing to us about them. I just cannot see you in L.A. Stay where you are and enjoy all that Van provides!

Basil and Stash kitties enjoyed a day at the window sills — warm enough to open the windows (with screens) here in NJ shore, bask in sunlight and get some fresh air. They are indoor-only kitties, so really enjoy the treat.

2cats

Airelle
Airelle

Thanks for the pictures of all the wonderful desserts, I would have a hard time choosing just one, so ok, I want cheesecake brownie, pecan brioche cookie,cupcakes, and some good coffee to go with. appreciate your sharing. The dinner looks good also, but I am usually much more about the desserts.

Kate
Kate

How on earth do the two of you stay so slim! I think I absorbed callories just looking at the pictures!

archersangel

all of the sweets look good. the french toast toadstools look interesting.

DP
DP

My 5 and 7 year olds have been pointing out plot holes in Dora the Explorer for a good half hour straight. After my own heart. My favorite from the 5 year old a few months ago: “Dora always follows paths so she’s not really an explorer.”

Ponytail
Ponytail

“Nearly impossible to stop eating once you start.”

That is why I cannot go to sweet shops and bakeries. I could never do what you do. cry

Ponytail
Ponytail

@ DP – Smart kids! lol

Janet
Janet

G’day

Not much time to read post thoroughly today. Maybe tonight.
No.1 daughter, Kris is hospital, just had tonsils out. She is really wishing for lots of ice-cream when she is allowed to come home.

paloosa
paloosa

Ok, I’m a little behind. I got zonked by a cranky and down right mean sinus infection for the past couple weeks.

I’ve been trying to catch up, and first a belated but very happy congrats to Akemi for her Canadian status! As short lived as it may be. L.A., seriously?

Is there an update on Jelly girl? I hope she’s doing better.

Really, L.A? I’ve been wondering about your film scripts. Is there a chance you can get Canadian financing and support, like Hewlett did with “Debug”? Not that you haven’t already considered this, but I was just curious. It seems a much more civilized way of doing business.

Kathode
Kathode

Those French toast toadstools sound good from the description, but I can’t reconcile your caption with what I’m seeing in the picture. Are there 5 different flavours, and you only described one? I’m confused. So bizarre-looking! Very curious to try those. I may have to find my way there before the selection changes over.

And I’d never heard of the baker’s market ’til now. Thanks for bringing that to my attention! (Or maybe I shouldn’t thank you, as now that I’ve been enlightened, I won’t be able to resist going and buying stuff, and I really need to watch the calories, or all this cross-fit I’ve been doing is going to go to waste. Damn you, Mallozzi!!!)

Line Noise
Line Noise

Damnit! Why didn’t you warn me about Super Capers yesterday . . . before I watched it!!!!!

mamasue9
mamasue9

Oh how I wish I could live and work in Vancouver…

Maggiemayday
Maggiemayday

Mmm, wish we had a Baker’s Market here. I do bake, but must send it all away with the husband on his runs. My raspberry cheesecake oatmeal bars have been a big hit lately. I’m going to try the raspberry oatmeal bars next, they don’t need to be chilled like the cheesecake ones do. Hubby runs out of room in his cooler.
My “truck cookies” are tough buggers, but tasty.

Deni

@Maggiemayday: You could send some of either down this way! smile

LJ
LJ
for the love of Beckett
for the love of Beckett

*oh, swoon.* Would love to eat the chicken and peanuts (minus the heat) from Kalvin’s for dinner, and then the apple pie shortbread cookies for dessert. Tough day here. This made it better.

for the love of Beckett
for the love of Beckett

Das — Me, too. Loved your anniversary story. They knew how to getcha, didn’t they? Awesome family. And yeah, great synchronicity with Castle this past week. What did Boo kitty get you guys for your anniversary?

JeffW

@Joe:

The dishes at Kalvin’s Szechuan Restaurant look good! I need to see if I can get a table there when I’m in Vancouver next month.

I’ve been reading but not posting much due to a crazy life right now. For example, I’m traveling to Naples on Sunday (followed by Milan and London), and then returning to the US on the 24th, so for the rest of April I’m trying to cram in glass layups on the airplane project, cleaning out the garage, part ordering on the Corvette project, coordinating the delivery of the new above ground pool (and installing it!), installing new towing mirrors, security system, and a radio on my truck, and planning for my Vancouver trip next month. This is all in addition to the normal maintenance on the house, cars, et cetera. I’m hoping June will be calmer, but I probably just jinxed myself!

By the way, I came across this and thought of you:

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_ZERO_TV?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-04-07-19-15-26

Sparrow_hawk

Curse you, Joe!
Getting my hopes up with your “they ship” comment.

Yeah, they do, but only to Canada, not to the poor chocolate craving folk in the U.S.

Alexis
Alexis

I really like it when you and Akemi go to the Bakers Market. Thanks for all the great pictures. smile

shinyhula
shinyhula

Wow. So much goodness, I want to cry. Maybe I’ll walk to Vancouver to check out these vendors out. If I start walking now I should be there next month.