Last Sunday I put on my stretchy pants and hopped on a bus to Federico’s Supper Club to begin 2014’s inaugural Noodle Mania event. After making my way through the sizable line (people started piling in half an hour before registration started), I was seated inside the restaurant where I was put to ease by the smooth vocals by Gio Levy. It’s not unusual for Federico’s to have live music at their venue as they offer it seven nights a week, but this was a special afternoon performance specifically for the event. It was tempting to order a glass of wine as I waited for my pasta but I knew that time was of the essence and lingering at the first venue only leads to a rushed finish.
On the menu:
- Strozzapreti con ragu bolognese – hand rolled strozzapretti pasta in a slow cooked mixed meat ragu
- Rigatoni ala Norma with tomato sauce, eggplant, ricotta salata, basil
Of the two, I found the Rigatoni to be much more flavourful than the Strozzapreti, simply because the latter tasted like a sauce I could make at home. I appreciated the fresh, hand rolled pasta, just wasn’t wowed by the overall flavour. That said, I’d definitely give Federico’s another shot as I’ve heard great things and spotted a few things on the menu that I’d like to try.
[Federico’s is also participating in Dine Out Vancouver. Last year they sold out and I’m anticipating that they will again this year.]
Our second stop was just down the street at Five Elements Cafe, a restaurant that serves a mix of Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. The lineup may not have been large, but it certainly took a while to get in; apparently everyone else had the same agenda as we did.
I had been to Five Elements before for a Tasting Plates event, where I tasted a variety of things, but I didn’t get to try the pho. Today was the day! I ordered the Phở Saté Peanut with chicken. Though it smelled heavily of peanut butter I longed for that aroma to translate to the taste of the dish as well, but sadly this wasn’t the case. The hot, generously portioned dish was perfect for a cold, rainy winter day though.
For stop #3 we had to take a cab due to time constraints eliminating the option of busing. Graze Vegetarian Restaurant was next on our list.
Graze took over the space where Fray on Fraser once existed and they’ve dramatically made over the room to give it a new look and feel. They are also offering a completely different menu. While both restaurants focused on local ingredients, Graze’s menu is plant-based and nutritionally balanced, while also offering a slew of gluten-free options.
On the menu:
- Graze’s macaroni: brown rice elbows in smoky coconut milk based ‘cheese’ sauce topped with a toasted nut crumble (GF)
- Beetroot linguine topped with a porcini infused cashew cream sauce
I loved the toasted nut crumble on the macaroni but found the “cheese” sauce to be overwhelmingly vinegary and almost inedible. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised to see many people leave most of their already small portion on their plate when leaving. The beetroot linguini was a tad bland in comparison – having half the sauce as the macaroni – but I loved the taste of the noodles on their own as well as the chunks of porcini mushrooms. If I were vegan I may be more appreciative of their creative approach to dietary restrictions, but since I’ll eat everything even if it kills me I found it hard to love either.
Our fourth stop of the day was at Bob Likes Thai Food. From their colourful Broadway location to the original (slightly more dull in appearance) location on Main Street, these guys consistently offer flavourful Thai food with a smile. They are also consistent contenders in Vancouver Foodster’s food challenges and regular participants in the Tasting Plates events. Am I complaining? Definitely not. I love their food, and I love how prepared they always are during these food tours.
On the menu:
- Kanom Jeen: a traditional Thailand comfort food. Green curry chicken over rice noodles, ga chai, kaffir lime, bamboo shoot, basil, eggplant, chili, fish sauce, palm sugar and raw vegetables.
- Pad Thai: a Thai classic of fried rice noodles with traditional tamarind sauce, turnip, fish sauce, palm sugar, smoke tofu, peanuts, egg, garlic, chives and bean sprouts.
Fifth stop: Atithi Indian Cuisine
When I found out that Atithi was participating in Noodle Mania I was a little surprised; I’ve eaten plenty of Indian food in my life, but not once have I ordered anything with noodles. There is a lot of starch: naan, potatoes, rice, roti, etc, but Indian curry and noodles just don’t go hand-in-hand. What could they possibly be serving?
On the surface the samosas sitting in the warming vat looked like regular samosas, but inside of them is, you guessed it, noodles.
Atithi decided to shove chow mein noodles inside of a samosa, offering a vegetarian version as well as a chicken version. I ordered the chicken, but didn’t finish it. I appreciated the creativity, but this was a major miss for me. The best part about this dish was the tamarind chutney and the lovely girl serving up the plates.
Following the noodle samosa was a trip downtown to Xoxolat.
A chocolate shop participating in a noodle event? You got it. And they did it well.
Xoxolat took shiritaki noodles and coated them with beef bouillon and chocolate for the savoury portion and coated them with cardamom sauce for the dessert portion. I was particularly fond of the cardamom noodles, but thoroughly enjoyed both of them. This was by far the most creative and tasty use of noodles on the tour.
Xoxolat (pronounced sho-sho-la) is known for supplying single origin and estate chocolate in its purest form, in addition to being combined with some pretty unique ingredients. These include, but aren’t limited to: tortilla chips and lime; sour cherry and chilli; and bacon, tomato and love (BTL). I’m not a chocolate purest by any means but loved their plain dark chocolate the most.
[Note: Xoxolat recently moved from Kitsilano to Yaletown – Davie at Drake]
Although running incredibly behind schedule, the staff at Bella Gelateria graciously let us try their noodle concoction.
Again, weird to think that a dessert primary establishment would participate in a Noodle Mania event but, just as Xoxolat did, Bella Gelateria proved it was possible. Owner James Coleridge is known for his creative gelato so I wasn’t surprised that he would come up with something uniquely “noodley”.
The Faloudeh Sorbetto is a sorbetto originally from Shiraz in Southwest Iran. It is basically a fresh lemon juice sorbetto with a nuance of rosewater, laced with rice noodles. It would have tasted great without the rice noodles but I enjoyed the unusual texture that it added to every mouthful and found myself at the bottom of the cup within minutes.