Monday, September 9, 2013

Guu with Garlic

[A continuation of our (my brother and myself) eating adventure in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  We went to Hawksworth for dinner (read the review here) and was now ready for our dessert ... izakaya!]

To be honest, Guu with Garlic wasn't our first choice for izakaya style Japanese food.  Our first choice was Hapa Izakaya on Robson Street.  The reviews have been good on Yelp and saw on Yelp that they closed at midnight so we left the hotel at around 10:30pm and made our way.

We arrived at Hapa Izakaya at around 10:45pm but they were closed.  Perhaps not a lot of business on a late Thursday evening.  We were a bit disappointed but since there are a number of good places around, we decided to head to Guu with Garlic, which was just a block away.

"It was time for some comfort food"

When we arrived, there were a number of people streaming out of the restaurant. We peeked inside and saw that there were a large number of folks inside, including two rather large parties. We thought we would have to wait a while but we were seated immediately at the counter. Behind the counter, three Japanese cooks were slaving away at making some very delicious looking treats. We picked up the menu and ordered right away. After our high class eating adventure at Hawksworth (ribeye, summer vegetables, cheesecake for dessert), it was time for some traditional and non-traditional comfort food.

We started off with ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) with a ponzu based dipping sauce.  Looked good but I didn't try it because I was eating this ...

Shrimp in Chili Sauce.  Came out hot out of the frying pan.  The crispy texture provides a lot of room of the chili sauce to stick to it, making each bite savory and flavorful.  Not super spicy which is just perfect for me.  The dishes starting coming out quickly so we moved onto ...

Beef tataki.  Yes, more raw meat, only without the bone.  And with the dipping sauce.  Followed by:

French fries with cajun mayonaisse.  Now at this point, we drift away from your traditional izakaya and get down and dirty with real comfort food, like:

Chicken wings.  Deep fried but oh so tasty.  The sesame oil on the cabbage was a nice way of eating some kind of vegetable.  Next time, I'm going to try out the karaage.  Deep fried but I'm sure it's just as tasty as these wings.

Overall, a nice contrast from Hawksworth.  Love the izakaya atmosphere, where the chefs and waitstaff yell "Irasshaimase!" or "Welcome!" when a customer walks in.  It's a fast, noisy, bustling type of restaurant (even at late night) but all of the dishes were great.  I have to say that I'm glad that Hapa Izakaya was closed since it gave us the opportunity to try out Guu with Garlic. If there was one thing that I didn't like about Guu, it was that there wasn't enough garlic on our dishes.  But, outside of that little nit, it's highly recommended and well worth the trip.

Guu with Garlic
1698 Robson Street
Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Punch Out: Iron Man 3 Versus Man Of Steel

[Reviewed on August 6th 2013]

In This Corner: in the gold and red trunks, hailing from Malibu California ... Iron Man 3
Main Takeaway:  Lethal Weapon scribe writes and directs the third installment of Iron Man.  Combining a 80s buddy-cop vibe with modern drone army overtones, you keep expecting Tony Stark to shake his head and mutter to himself, "I'm getting too old for this shit".  Verdict:  Matinee.  3D not necessary.

  • Tony Stark in typical Tony *Snark*-mode, but at the same time, full of doubts due to the events that occurred in Avengers
  • Great rescue scene in the middle act, which puntuates the minor reveal about his Iron Man armor
  • Ben Kingsley's Mandarin character is awesome
  • Makes reference to Downton Abbey
  • Gwynthe Paltrow doesn't look so hot in this movie.  Maybe her health cleanse took away some of her star luster?
  • At one moment in the movie, Tony Stark channels Martin Riggs when sneaking into a home.  I swear, I thought I was watching Lethal Weapon 5, only without Murtaugh, My Cousin Vinnie and Thor's mom
  • Guy Pearce doesn't do much in the movie, which is a shame
  • People who explode can get messy
  • The ending, while well executed, didn't do much for me.
I don't know.  While better than Iron Man 2, 3 didn't really show off the kind of harrowing escape or the fun of creating the Iron Man suit that we saw in the first Iron Man.  Nor did it show the manic genius/leader qualities of the Avengers.  Tony Stark is still a brilliantly realized character, thanks to Robert Downing Jr's acting:  he's being flippant one moment, and then rat-tat-tat details oriented another moment.  I wouldn't say that he was slumming it in this third film but really, after seeing him in four films already (1, 2, the Avengers and now 3), I think we the audience might start thinking that this shit is getting old.

In This Corner:  in the red and blue trunks, hailing from Smallville, USA by way of Krypton ... Man of Steel
Main Takeaway:  the guys who wrote Batman Begins and the Dark Knight meet up with the guy who directed 300 and The Watchmen and decide to make Superman into an alien ... just like Thor!  Only Supes is raised as a wholesome as baseball and apple pie American while Thor is raised as a DB.  Man, parenting is SO important.  Oh, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are Superman's parents.  And minor spoiler:  Kevin Costner's streak may have come to an end.  Verdict:  Matinee.  3D not necessary. 

  • The alien angle is a bold move.  It's inferred but not explicitly mentioned in the Richard Donner films.  
  • The loner aspect of moving from one place to another is also well fleshed out in the movie
  • Amy Adams ... mmmmmm.
  • I have to say that Kevin Costner gives off this Field of Dreams vibe that works in this movie
  • When Supes sets up his Fortress of Solitude and tries out that whole "leap tall buildings in a single bound" thing and watching him smile, you kind of get the same feel-good feeling when watching Tobey Maguire realizing his potential as Spiderman.  Sorry ... this is the second time I referenced a Marvel comic character.  I won't do that again.
  • Russel Crowe doesn't sing in this movie.  Seriously, I half expected him to start belting out a song (monotone, of course) about Jean Valjean.

  • I think they went full alien when they should have gone half alien.  Everyone knows you never go full alien.  I mean, look at Thor, that stuck up, half witted, scruffy looking Asgardian.
  • All of the scenes on Krypton felt like something out of Avatar.  Weird.
  • Flashbacks seem really out of place.  There were flashbacks in Batman Begins that flowed well with the story but not so much here
  • Terraforming.  Really?  Now you know that the movie went full alien on you.
  • The ending, while well executed, didn't do much for me.  And it felt so contrived.
  • Amy Adams doesn't sing in this movie

As an origins film, it hits all of the bullet points you would expect, almost following the Richard Donner template for Superman The Movie (Krypton, Smallvile, Metropolis).  Unfortunately, the narrative is so scattershot that it doesn't really flow that well ... which is a shame because this movie had so much potential.  This film had the opportunity to give people hope in the world but somewhat squandered it on showing a moody, more introspective Superman, shackled to the thought that he is more alien than human.  In the trailer, there is a scene where young Clark asks his father, "Can't I just keeping pretending to be your son" when realizing that he's not of earth.  And Kevin Costner says "You ARE my son".  And yet, for the rest of the movie, we don't see the human quality that Clark is striving for, of being part of earth, being part of Americana.

Judges Score
Iron Man 3
  • Pros:  4
  • Cons:  5
  • Summary:  3
  • Swing:  2
  • Total:  3

Man of Steel
  • Pros:  6
  • Cons:  6
  • Summary:  3
  • Swing:  4
  • Total:  5

There was an NBC News article about how a pure and straightforward character like Superman must compete in a world dominated by snarky Iron Man.  Where Tony Stark is glib and arrogant, Clark Kent is mild mannered and considerate.  He doesn't want to harm others while Tony Stark doesn't mind getting in harm's way.  Does that make Man of Steel a less interesting film or the character less interesting?  Not at all.  From an entertainment perspective, despite it's flaws, I liked Man of Steel more than Iron Man 3 just because I'm a sucker for origins films (Star Trek reboot, 007 reboot, first Iron Man) and wanted to see how they would change a movie icon so ingrained in so many people, thanks to the Donner films.  I think it worked to a certain degree but I don't think it successfully updated Superman the character to fit the modern times.  It's certainly darker with a sense of foreboding (similar to Batman) compared to the light and breezy nature of Iron Man but that not enough to make Superman modern.  It would be interesting to see in which direction the producers/directors/writers go with Man of Steel 2 with the Batman crossover.

Pacific Rim

[reviewed on August 5th 2013]

Is Pacific Rim just another Transformers wannabee (short answer:  no) or is the mecha versus kaiju movie everything geeks, nerds and otakus are looking for (short answer:  oh hell yeah).

Main Takeaway
Combine one part 70's robot cartoons (Gundam, Mazinger Z), half part 80's Voltron with a dash of Robotech, mix two parts Godzilla and add a healthy dollop of Independence Day and you get Pacific Rim.  Verdict:  oh hell yeah, in 3D.

  • lots of Robots versus Monsters scenes, especially in the middle act that culminates into a big fight scene that had the audience cheering.  The only times I've heard the audience that I was with cheer at a movie was the Death Star run in Star Wars and recently, the Hulk doing his thing in The Avengers.
  • a good number of robots, each with their own unique design and personality
  • Elbow Rocket!  FTW!
  • interesting set up, where it takes two people to control a single robot
  • interesting backstory regarding Kikuchi Rinko's character
  • Idris Elba (dude that says "today, we are canceling the apocalypse" in the trailer) is pretty much the heart that drives the movie forward
  • Charlie Day playing JJ Abrams.  I swear ... I thought JJ Abrams was acting in this movie
  • Ron Perlman, Vincent from CBS's Beauty and the Beast and Guillermo Del Toro regular (he's Hellboy!), in a scene chewing role only he can play

  • paper thin story
  • rice paper thin characters
  • a good number of monsters that all kind of look the same (big, creepy, with wafer thin personality)
  • Tokyo doesn't get destroyed.  Hong Kong does.  You would think a movie that pays homage to the old Toho Godzilla movies would at least have the decency to destroy Tokyo landmarks like SkyTree.  Maybe Tokyo will get destroyed in the sequel that will hopefully have a better than wafer thin storyline
  • rah-rah, unite together to save humanity, reminiscent of the last act of another movie full of paper thin characters (Independence Day)
  • ending somewhat reminiscent of the last act of another movie with a paper thing story (Independence Day)

For anyone who has ever watched the robot cartoon shows from the late 70's or caught a late night showing of Godzilla versus Mothra on TV, Pacific Rim is pretty much a love letter to the heyday of those Japanese driven animation and man-in-suit monster movies.  The special effects are top notch.  Transformers, while also top notch in its special effects, drops the ball with its asinine characters.  Sure, with Pacific Rim, you have your stock characters (your father figure character, man-boy character trying to redeem himself from past unspeakable deeds, daughter figure character trying to prove herself in a man + robot world, douche-bag character with chip on shoulder (wouldn't be a DB without a chip on his shoulder) and yeah, the acting is all over the place but hey, it's way better than watching Shia LeBeouf trying to be cool while arguing with a car.  If there was a fault with this movie, it would be it's near carbon copy of the third act from ID4.

Starring:  Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman
Written By:  Travis Cheacam, Guillermo Del Toro
Directed By:  Guillermo Del Toro
Genre:  Action/Science Fiction
Rated PG-13


My brother was attending a conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and since it was just a short drive up from Seattle, I thought I would visit and hang out with him for a couple of days.  We both love Vancouver; there is something extremely cosmopolitan about the city without being too tourist-y.  I will admit, however, that there is one glaring problem with Vancouver:  there are just too many good restaurants to choose from.  Both my brother and I scanned through a countless number of Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews of restaurants in the Vancouver area, covering the whole gamut of culinary goodness:  French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Northwest seafood.  You name it, there's a good restaurant for it.

So, upcoming arriving in Vancouver and meeting up with my brother, we must have spent at least a good 20 minutes on trying to decide on where to eat.  When we couldn't decide on a restaurant, I blurted out "Hawksworth", based on a strong recommendation from one of my co-workers (thanks JCOS!).  So, we looked at the reviews on Yelp and yup, they were mostly positive.  We then looked at the website and wow!  Those pictures on their site looks scrumptious.  So, it was decided right then and there:  we were off to Hawksworth.

Located in the Rosewood Hotel off of Georgia St. in the middle of bustling downtown Vancouver, you walk into the darkened entry and are greeted by a couple of elegantly dressed receptionists.  Very classy.  We were led through a comfy looking lounge into the main dining area, where our table was situated next to a wall.  It was about 5:30pm so it wasn't crowded.  A French gentlemen, who mentioned that he was from the south of France but whose name for the life of me I cannot remember, was our waiter and he reminded me much of Bronson Pinchot (Balki from Perfect Strangers (or better yet, Serge from Beverly Hills Cop)).  I half expected him to ask me if I wanted an espresso with a little lemon twist.

We opened up the menu.  There were so many enticing entree choices.  My original choice was getting the caramelized alberta striploin with shishito peppers but my brother saw the For Sharing menu item and decided that we should both get it.  What is the For Sharing menu item?  30 oz heritage angus bone in ribeye with potato gnocchi, summer vegetables, crispy marrow with a red wine jus and butter hollandaise sauce.  All for the low down price of $125CAD.  So, it was decided right then and there:  For Sharing, medium rare.  Pro:  red meat!  Somewhat of a con:  30 minute wait for it to be cooked to perfection.

My brother wanted an appetizer and ordered the English Pea Soup, which had lobster and prosciutto with a black pepper creme fraichi.  I passed on an appetizer because I wanted to save room for dessert.  After a few minutes, my brother's soup arrived ... in style and made me realize that I should have gotten an appetizer as well.  Missed opportunity!

English Pea Soup

The soup bowl contained lobster bits and prosciutto while the pea soup came in its own container.  The waiter (who still hadn't asked me if I wanted an espresso with a little lemon twist) then poured the hot pea soup into the soup bowl, mixing with the lobster bits, creating a very hot and fresh take on soup presentation.  I took a sip and it was divine.  Very creamy and flavorful.

After a 30 minute wait, the ribeye arrived ... also in grand fashion.

30 oz Heritage Angus Bone In Rib Eye with Crispy Bone Marrow ... pure awesome

Mmmm ... potato gnocchi with summer vegetable bourquetiere.

Two great tastes that tastes great together

Crispy Marrow.  Bite-size explosions of flavor 

The presentation itself was marvelous.  My initial reaction in seeing a large bone with a slab of meat attached to it as dinner was something to the effect of watching Fred Flintstone eating dinner.  It was barbaric and there was something of a caveman vibe to it.  But we were hungry so we dove in, caveman style.

The meat had the right amount of pink; not bloody but certainly not the toughness you would find in a medium cooked steak.  Biting into it was heaven:  tender but not chewy, flavorful without the need of any sauce.  The outside of the steak was slightly seasoned which complimented the earthy taste of raw beef.  Add that to the summer vegetables and the potato gnocchi and you have yourself a splendid meal.  There were two sauces that accompanied the steak:  the Chimichurri red wine jus and the butter hollandaise.  The red wine jus had a slightly sweet taste of sweetened soy sauce but without the salty aftertaste.  The butter hollandaise was very creamy with a slight tang of yogurt which was a nice contrast with the red wine jus.  I preferred the red wine jus but in all honesty, I ate most of the rib eye without any sauce at all.  Overall, the ribeye was a winner.

I should mention about two things:  the potato gnocchi and the crispy marrow.  At first glance, the puffy/crispy bits of marrow on the ribeye looks like simple garnishments but it's part of the meal.  I took a bite into one, half expecting to bite into something like an onion ring.  Instead, to my surprise, it was very tasty:  crisp like an onion ring but packed full of rich flavor.  For the gnocchi, I wasn't sure if these were baked or pan fried but there was a slight fried texture to the potato gnocchi that gave it a slightly tarter-tot meets pasta taste.  Both added so much to the main dish and vegetables.

It took my brother and I some time to go through the meal but we weren't in a hurry and we somehow managed to eat the whole thing.  Here's the proof:

Yabba dabba done

How do you top of a meal as grand as a 30oz angus rib eye?  With extravagent dessert, of course.  I was full but there is always room for dessert (thanks to my second stomach dedicated to desserts, sweets and the occasional appetizer as dessert).  My brother got the passionfruit, coconut and white chocolate while I went for the chèvre cheesecake.

Passionfruit, Coconut and White Chocolate

Not your ordinary cheesecake:  chèvre cheesecake with green apple sorbet and walnuts

I didn't get to try the passionfruit, coconut, white chocolate triple threat that my brother had but it looked very inviting.  Presentation, for both desserts, were great.  When I think cheesecake, I typically think of the thick New York style cheesecakes with the graham cracker crust.  This cheesecake was much different but just as delicious:  the cheesecake itself, which was shaped like a tube, was very light and fluffy, almost like whipped cream.  Next to it was a walnut cookie with a dollop of green apple sorbet.  I think they should rename the dessert as Green Apple Sorbet with chèvre cheesecake because the spotlight was definitely the sorbet:  lightly sweet with a tangy green apple taste that went well with the crispy texture of the walnut cookie.  The yuzu marinated apple cubes and the caramelized walnuts raised the dessert to the new level of dessert deliciousness.  However, the kicker was the brown butter sauce droplets.  They dot the the dessert plate and one taste simply blasts you with so much rich, cinnamon-y flavor.  Highly recommended.

In fact, if you're going to be treating yourself to a fine meal with excellent service, I highly recommend going to Hawksworth.  From beginning to end, each portion of the meal was delicious.  Upon leaving, we were presented with one last bit of dessert:  fruit jelly candy and marshmallows.  
Delicious to the end, a great dining experience at Hawkworth

Hawksworth Restaurant
801 West Georgia Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
604-673-7000 extension 1
Located in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, corner of Howe & Georgia