October 25, 2012: Double Birthday(ish) Dinner!

The other night, Akemi and I went out for burgers with a couple of our very favorite Vancouver friends: Steve, Jodi, and their daughter, Gemma.  Per Akemi’s request, we ended up going to Romer’s Burger Bar for their varied menu offerings and those silly iceberg lettuce buns the ladies seem to enjoy.

Steve and Jodi.  Future Vegas travel companions?

Gemma says: “I’m eating! And watching Madagascar 3.”

The Chorizodor.  A pork and chorizo sausage patty topped with cheddar, pepper jack, creamy boursin, avocado, and Diablo sauce.  Tasty – but very messy.

Steve and Jodi ended up surprising both Akemi and I with belated birthday gifts.  A travel kit for me (which saves me the trouble of having to go out and buy one for my Tokyo trip!  How’s that for timing?) and a pug-themed accessory for Akemi:

So cute!

As the dishes were being cleared away, our waitress asked who was the birthday boy because, apparently, they were preparing some sort of dessert in my honor.  I assumed that she had spotted the gift and informed the kitchen who had decided to whip up something for the occasion.  I would have honestly preferred to simply order my own dessert.  BUT it turned out the dessert wasn’t coming from the kitchen. Not exactly.  It was coming from the kitchen via a sneaky Steve and Jodi via Ganache Patisserie: an assortment of delectable pastries including:

My birthday mini-cake

And my favorite: the hazelnut cocoa meringue.

The desserts were totally unexpected but greatly appreciated.  And delicious.  If we do end up doing Vegas with Steve and Jodi in, I’ll have to find a way to surprise them as well.  I’m thinking garden snake in their luggage.

Then, last night, Akemi and I headed over to Fat Dragon for their famed Hog Times dinner.  We were joined by Emma and Robert (who we met at the last family-style dinner at Campagnolo Roma) and our buddy Simon…

Emma and Robert = expert eaters.

Simon = diner, chef, photographer.

I’m usually not a fan of family-style dining which requires you to share a table with complete strangers.  Sometimes, dishes introduced at one end of the table take forever to get to you – and, when they do, it can be slim pickings.  Conversely, if you’re starting with a dish, you may limit your initial serving to ensure everyone at the other end of the table receives a share and, as a result, end up leaving the table feeling hungry.  On the other hand, the family-style setting allows you to make new friends (like Emma and Robert) – which wasn’t the case on this night as the group seated beside us was immersed in their own private conversation throughout.

Still, it was a great meal.  The following photos were snapped by Simon and his far superior camera:

Barbecued Sloping Hill Farm Pig.  They trotted the pork out and posed for the requisite pics.  

Papaya and cabbage salad with lime, green chilies, and crispy shallots.  Akemi loved it.

Jalan Alor chicken wings.  Simon went to town on these!

Stri-fried noodles with smokey drippings.  Smokey drippings? Aka pork fat.  And, yes, they were delicious.

The cheek!  The tastiest, most tender part of the pig.  

Other menu items included bean sprout kimchi, stir-fried Japanese eggplant, BBQ pit beans, butter lettuce and bean sprout salad, Korean BBQ sauce, scallion sauce, and steamed jasmine rice.  The eggplant was a favorite of the table.

For dessert, I ordered a round of Fat Dragon’s famed soft serve ice cream.  That night’s flavor: pandan.

The happy couple

Akemi says: “Oishiiii!”.

In addition, Simon gifted me a box of belated birthday chocolate and macarons.  They were incredible, especially the pumpkin macarons!

Like my birthday dinner at Campagnolo, Chef Ted Anderson was the man behind the meal.  A big thanks to him and the rest of the gang at Fat Dragon/Campagnolo/Campagnolo Roma.

Well, after two big meals, Akemi has decided to eat soup for the foreseeable future.

July 26, 2010: Romer’s Burger Bar! Jelly vs. Lulu! Dance moves of the future!

With the nausea gone and my appetite back, I figured what better way to celebrate my recovery from food poisoning than with gourmet burgers, pickles, two types of fries, and dessert.  Yep, I was right back on the bike today, riding into one of the newest additions to the West 4th restaurant scene: Romer’s Burger Bar.  I’d heard great things from Special Features Producer and Future Tokyo Culinary Wingman Ivon Bartok, and I trust this guy.  Not with my life, mind you, or any sort of financial investment, but certainly as far as lunch goes.

So, today, I met up with my friend Denise and we checked the place out.  Now, given its recent opening, I’m sure Romer’s will be making some minor adjustments to the menu in the weeks ahead as they fine tune some of the offerings and, oh yeah, add some conspicuous-by-their-absence items to the line-up – mainly, milkshakes.  I know, I know.  What goes better than burger and beer?  Well, if you’re under drinking age (which I’d wager a lot of the clientele at a burger joint is), don’t drink, or happen to be recovering from a case of food poisoning and don’t want to chance it, I’d say milkshakes would be the ready answer.  Alas, no shakes on this menu which I found passing strange.  And, according to fellow diners, I wasn’t alone.  I settled for a nice cold bottle of San Pellegrino.

The Magic Mushroom was magical

We split two burgers – The Magic Mushroom (all natural beef patty, locally-grown portabella mushrooms, arugula, herb and garlic Boursin cheese, and caramelized onions) and The Ultimate Kobe Classic (premium Kobe beef, foie gras pate, chanterelle mushrooms, onion strings, truffle mayo, and garlic mustard with a red wine demi-glaze on the side) – spicy Kosher dills, yam fries, and hand-cut double-cooked fries with truffle oil and Reggiano.

The buns were perfect – buttery, lightly toasted brioche with just a hint of sweetness.  The Magic Mushroom was one damn tasty burger, nicely complimented by the cheese, mushrooms, and onions.  The Kobe Classic, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment.  Although Kobe beef tends to be a more forgiving meat, even it isn’t immune to an over lengthy stay on the grill.  The patty was dry and measured up poorly against the juicier all-beef patty of the Magic Mushroom burger at half the price.  Instead of topping their patty with pan-seared foie, Romer’s offers up a modest pate that ultimately ended up lost amid the other additions.  Speaking of which – although the menu made mention of a red win demi-glaze being served on the side, my plate contained nothing but the burger.  It was also missing the promised garlic olives and pepperoncinis (Denise was kind enough to offer me a bite of hers).

The hand-cut double-cooked fries with truffle oil, dusted with Reggiano.

The hand-cut double-cooked fries with the truffle oil and Reggiano were so good and so plentiful, I kept eating them long after I should have stopped.  The yam fries were also very good.

The homemade mini doughnuts.

I didn’t want to push it, so I decided to go with two instead of the usual three desserts: apple pie a la mode and the home made mini doughnuts served with three dipping sauces.  The pie was great, crowned with a scoop of (unfortunately not home made) ice cream.  It was also served with a side of mascarpone cheese which, while offering an interesting textural combo, didn’t really add anything in terms of taste.  Had it been lightly whipped and slightly, I would have been all over it.  The mini doughnuts were perfect – ten in all, sweet and crispy – served with a trio of sauces: chocolate, maple-whiskey, and a limoncello that seemed out of place, delivering a mouth-puckering contrast to its much sweeter neighbors.

Overall, a promising start for the new kid on the block.  With some fourteen different burger variations on the menu, I’m already planning my return visit.

Hey, speaking of recoveries, look who’s on the mend.  Jelly’s the star of the video, but check out Lulu’s not-so-subtle attempts to steal the show…

Hey, speaking as a writer-producer of SF television, I know how tough it is to imagine future trends.  Ask yourself: What will fashion look like fifty years from now?  Or cars?  Or, uh, dancing?  Well, in the case of the latter, I’m sure it’ll look nothing like this…