I am partaking in a journey where I will appraise every non-franchise restaurant in town and review their food as well as their service. It is an attempt to expand my mind and appetite. Simultaneously, I will also be taking what I learn from these establishments and attempting to remake them with my extremely limited skill.
A basic fundamental aspect of being a critic is the potential of hurting someone’s feelings. I’m addressing this subject because I am a human being with a measure of empathy. I’m not ignorant to the potential affect my reviews can have, and I’m becoming more and more aware of the number of people who actually read my entries. The ultimate question asked of any critic is why do it—why write something with the potential to negatively affect the emotions of other people. Exasperated by the internet (though not caused be it), several professions are exposed to open critique, often populated by people without relevant experience.
Can a distinction be made? Yes, due entirely by the function of said profession to service consumers. Scientific papers are meant to educate and expand the field of science, not to be entertainment to the common masses, thus their review is (often) limited to peers. But movies, books, games, and restaurants function to serve consumer interests. Despite arguments about artistic value standing on its own grounds, authors, cooks, painters, and filmmakers all need to eat, which means the success of their work is dependent on people liking what they produce. Is a critic required to be member of the profession?
No. It’s respectable if they are connected to it or trained in some way, but it’s not mandatory. As consumers, we have the right to speak our mind about what we enjoy and what we don’t. Critics, by their very definition, make a point of exposing flaws and praising virtues when discovered.
I revealed in my CBC interview that I don’t expect a restaurant to be bad. I’m subjective, which I’ve always admitted (a feature most critics exhibit), and I’ve been honest about the biases I possess. Those who read my reviews are free to respect or disregard them at their whim. It doesn’t matter if I call a restaurant the best or worst; each time, I run the risk of ruffling feathers. Can I affect their livelihood? Absolutely, as can anybody else. Am I bound to be a nice guy and give each restaurant a break because more people are reading my reviews, offering me considerable potential to sway opinions?
I know I can’t afford to act mechanically or impulsive, but that won’t change how I handle my reviews. I want to entertain readers, so I add color when I can, keeping in the spirit of the review, either negative or positive. Obviously I have the potential to hurt someone’s feelings, more so given my open admittance that I won’t avoid negative comments if I have to make them. My only advice is accept it…because you have to.
No, seriously, you actually have to, and this time I can speak from experience. Beyond my reviews, I also run a small publishing label which handles the books I write. I commission artists, editors, and have been doing so for seven years. Do I get negatively reviewed? Absolutely. What have I done about it? I strive to put frowns upside-down. I’ve seen other writers get into online wars with critics and it never works in favor of the writer. Even if emerging victorious, the writers still lose in some way. The best way to change a critic’s opinion is to win them over. If a restaurant dislikes my review, they have three viable options. One, they ignore it, and I know quite a few do. Two, they examine possible changes to improve the restaurant and if said changes are in their best interests. Three, they reach out in an attempt to garner a second (or third or fourth) chance, which is easy. I’ve done so on numerous occasions, though never asked by the restaurants.
Have I given out reviews that I later recanted? Yes and in both directions. It may not be someone making a mistake as it could be a restaurant just having a bad day. Maybe I ordered the wrong dish. Hell, it could even be because of me. The point is that writers will always hurt someone’s feelings, and this will never stop them writing. My writing a review which can hurt someone’s business is part of the profession they have joined, and I am one voice. When dealing with Trip Advisor or Urbanspoon, there can be hundreds of others speaking up (or in this case clicking), and one cannot suppress them all. At least I have the decency to write at length about my experience, and find some praise if it all present.
What the hell does this have to do with Papa Yiannis? Glad you asked. Through the ether of the underverse I discovered that the owner (and his family) took umbrage with my lackluster review. I also became aware the situation they have found themselves in. I’ll repeat what I said above—Negative reviews are a way of life. It sucks that Greek cuisine has a bit of a stigma in some circles. It sucks so many of these large restaurants have to keep a buffet going in order to break even. It really sucks a place like Papa Yiannis is located next to The Twisted Cork, an honest-to-god culinary masterstroke. Prince George already has a Greek restaurant with a long standing reputation within only a few blocks. The industry is brutal, with many family-owned restaurants failing within a year. I can empathize…because my family’s past is marred with such a failing. I won’t go into details, but my family knows all too well what can happen when a culinary dream turns into a nightmare.
And Papa Yiannis isn’t bad. If you want fast food, buffets are the way to go. I am just not one of those people who enjoy them. Greek cuisine is known for incredible portions, so you’ll get your money’s worth. And I have heard that Papa Yiannis’ lamb is brought in from farms directly rather than purchased from a shelf at Shoppers Wholesale. That’s laudable. The fact that they import and use olive oil directly from Greece is friggin’ incredible.
I might also remind that I scored Papa Yiannis 3.5 / 5, or 70%, hovering between a C+ and B- depending on where you live. Presentation and Value both got 80%. It’s not bad; it’s just not amazing. My reviews will continue as they are, colorful and honest. And people have the right to heed or ignore. Good look, Papa Yiannis; I’m not looking for you to fail.
In my attempt to reassess all the sushi places in Prince George, I’ve returned to Sendo (feeling I should quote Gandalf). In my old review, I remember thinking it was cute. Because it was. It holds the distinction of being the furthest sushi bar to any other in town, sitting almost to the city limits, a great location for people in College Heights, not so much for everyone else.
I entered and was greeted by a waiter so young, he was still drenched in afterbirth. I remembered mentioning the prices were a little high in my last review, but perhaps I was wrong in that assessment. Either that or they changed their menu since last time; I just don’t see it being that expensive now. Or maybe I reviewed Sendo immediacy following a vacation where I reviewed the top restaurants in London. Bias-much? Now, Sendo has in its favor it follows up two rather depressing reviews of its competition.
First of all, Sendo is a sushi place, and sushi is all that they serve. They don’t call themselves a sushi place but gain a reputation for serving awesome noodles; it’s all about the sushi. And Sendo may be the only one left with an actual sushi bar, a staple of classic Japanese cuisine and one I sorely miss. I think Sendo and So Good maybe be the only ones left with bars. Since I took my netbook with me (yes, I still own that hunk of crap) I sat at a table. If Sendo gains the honor of being my regular sushi place, then the bar is where I’d go. And I’m sure I’d attempt to befriend the chef and use said friendship to glean free sushi from time to time…not that I have done that before (cough).
The decor hasn’t changed since last time, still chaotic, worn, ripped, and a little clumsy. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Seriously, I had no problem with the décor then and I still don’t now. I love the fact it has a drive-through window. I wonder how much Superstore sushi has cut into their business. All of this really depends on the quality of their fish and rice. I ordered the assorted sushi combo and added an additional spicy tuna roll. If I was really hungry, I’d have tested their tempura and miso as well, but today, it’s all about the sushi, as the last two places have failed this vital component. I won’t say “simple” component, as sushi is actually incredibly difficult to get right. Proper itamae spend years just making rice until it becomes second nature.
Perhaps the chef left to get a refresher because I typed this review at the table, and at—scrolling up—460 words, I was still waiting to see the proof of Sendo’s quality. I don’t mind waiting generally, and I’m also a relatively fast typist despite still pecking with my index and middle fingers (I’ve also removed words since my initial draft—it was actually 700 words at this point). However, at this point, I ordered tea and it still had yet to be delivered.
I took this moment to make a few observations.
For one, Sendo is obviously popular enough to be selling T-shirts. They actually sell memorabilia.
Water apparently is not free, so I assume it’s bottled, and I never buy bottled water.
The entrance door gets stuck, making everyone think Sendo is closed despite the obvious customers enjoy their food.
Despite two bars and four tables, Sendo couldn’t fit more than thirteen people.
It’s odd how the kitchen area is twice the size of the serving area.
Twenty minutes in, I finally got my tea…and not in a paper cup. Thank you. A traditional cup and a KETTLE, why do I feel like I’m being spoiled? Shouldn’t this be standard for all sushi restaurants?
648 words, and still nothing. I started running out of things to type, scrolling over the rest of the document, checking for errors and switching the tense from present to past. It was odd to type these words as events I remember despite experiencing them now…wait, did that make sense? I’ve always had issues about whether I should stay in present tense, except not all my reviews are completely written at the table, making it disingenuous if I write the “here and now” despite being after the fact. Sigh, 736 words, still nothing to eat. I can’t say that I’m starving—kids and adults with dwarfism in Africa suffer from starvation; I’m only hungry. I remember threatening the old chef from Suzuran that I’d start a Change.org campaign in order to resurrect the old restaurant. Other plates were delivered, mine would surely follow
Who here watches Hannibal?
Finally, the spicy tuna roll arrives. On a wooden serving board, even better. The fish…was cut…properly. It was good—I’ve had better but not recently. The assorted sushi truly was assorted, with roe, scallops, tuna and egg. And it was all good with the notable depressing setback of the cucumber roll, the most basic roll to make and receive. I know it’s what you get with assorted sushi, but heed warning that if you want something different to mention it.
I think I’m finally seeing what few people are claiming, that perseverance and a little Sun Tzu philosophy has allowed Sendo to rise into the upper echelon of quality Japanese restaurants in town. A little lost are you? Well Sun Zu had a famous quote, “If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.” In honesty, I’m not sure the quote is his, but in this case, it refers to the unfortunate drop in quality of every other place in town, elevating Sendo as the recommended location of sushi. Yes, I have to take back points for its confusing and crowed decor but this is really a situation where one must read the review to fully understand why one must visit here.
Sendo has stuck to its roots and waited for everyone else to get worse, and they have. Sendo hasn’t done much to improve their image, but at least they haven’t gone downhill…and right now, that can be considered praise.
Apparently, there is new Kitchen Nightmare knock-off specializing in Asian cuisine and hosted by a cute Chinese cook. I smell a winner. And it focuses on fixing what wrong with nearly every Chinese restaurant in Prince George.
I won’t question why White Goose Bistro was mentioned in the recent Why PG magazine inserted in the recent The Citizen (what, it’s called The Citizen). Winning the Golden Cork challenge twice by the PG Wine association is more than well deserved. But before mentioning such a prestigious award, it was also mentioned that White Goose was named PG’s best restaurant by the “renowned food critic Prince Gastronome”.
In the same breathe no less, along with the Golden Cork, the renowned food critic. When did I get renowned? Someone renowned would be a food critic with a book deal, a contract—someone that receives compensation for their work, mass distribution. Why PG? Why? You know this places a lot of excess pressure on me. People will check out this blog and now I’ll have to behave. I can’t just insert the odd vulgarity in my reviews anymore. I have to decent, heaven forbid, maybe even fair. I appreciate the compliments but…wow…renown.
Well…it’s…not THAT bad a word. I kinda rolls of the tongue…oh right…I guess I have start obeying grammar rules now. I can’t be letting slip words like “kinda.” Probably have to stop using dot-dot-dot to sentence fragments. Probably shouldn’t be starting my sentences with adverbs either, now that I think about it.
I guess I should thank whoever put Why PG together for even mentioning me. Thank you, I’ll try not to let being renowned get to my head. Now, where did I put my cape?
Repeating past reviews, Sushi Star is still a hell of a deal—all you can eat sushi for $14.95 at lunch, $16.95 on Saturdays. But is it still good? I’ve heard complaints of their quality, but my first visit didn’t reflect that.
Unfortunately, my most recent visit scratched the veneer off the cheap paneling of a once good restaurant. Something has happened here, and I don’t like it. The closer you sit at the bar, the more pervasive the fried smell is. I was eight feet away, and it was almost distracting to the point of coughing. The water has a funny taste…and that’s not funny comedic but funny in that possible ignitable sort of way. Japanese restaurants have two different echelons—the prestigious ones with expert knives and customers in business suits, and the rest with colored plates, buffets, and plastic-coated menus. Despite popular assumptions, Sushi Star and Wasabi are in the same class. One cannot turn its nose to the other. Wasabi’s problem is that its rice is bad and its portions are cut too large, two things with sushi one cannot get wrong. Sushi Star’s problem is that it teeters dangerously close to being the Japanese equivalent of a maligned Chinese buffet. And yes, that’s bad. The rice is passable and the fish is cut to workable proportions, but it’s also done quick and lazy. The rice is not packed well enough and the rolls are often misshapen. But I can at least work my mouth around them, and they’re not disgusting.
This all reads as middling praise, and you’d be correct. The service is the same, bordering between competence and complete ignorance. It has fallen a few steps from its previously lofty perch, most certainly. I said last year that the standard for comparing a sushi restaurant is at The Real Canadian Superstore. Basically, any sushi place would have to have sushi better or more reasonably priced than that offered at the Superstore sushi bar. And this may come as a surprise, but that’s a difficult perch to reach. That being said, the Superstore sushi bar changed hands recently so its quality might have fallen as well.
The point is that Sushi Star has most certainly let its quality slide somewhat since last I was here. And this is most assuredly due to the speed of which they must service their colossal customer base. By noon, this sizable restaurant was slamming with people. But would I recommend it as glowingly as my last visit?
I would definitely select a table as far from the bar as possible. Also, you do have to wave down the staff. After you get your initial serving, they basically ignore you, hoping perhaps you’ll get the hint and finish your meal. Obviously the less you eat, the more money they make with the buffet. And for the love of Superman, stay away from the weird rolls. You know the ones, yam-yams a deep-fried California. They sound disgusting and they are. Yes, alas, Sushi Star has fallen off its top rung. What scares me the most is that the other places might have fallen right along with it. It could remain the best sushi restaurant in town, a sad fate indeed if awarded. Let me make this clear that Wasabi is NOT better than Sushi Star, not in the quality of its sushi. I don’t care how good their noodles are. A Japanese restaurant boasting sushi front and center on their menu is obligated to get that right, and if they don’t, I’ll call them out on it. So far, Sushi Star remains the bests, but I hope to god that changes.
I’ve returned to Wasabi to offer it the persisted second chance. I’ve a lot to delve into, so let’s skip my lamented preamble and talk about the decor which—same as last time—looks to have been designed by someone suffering from agnosia (look it up)—irregular colored tiles, soccer flags from countries that never win the World Cup, and lamps plucked from a David O’Russel movie. So…yeah, typical for a sushi place. Likewise for the laminated oversized single page menu. I found my seat, was offered a menu, and was delivered my tea in only a few minutes. They defiantly cater to a rush.
And in a paper cup again—not sure why this is suddenly becoming a trend. I sat next to the heating duct so it felt like I was in a studio apartment in downtown Tokyo with a broken air conditioner. I ordered sushi and within minutes, I was served. That was a bit too fast, and my suspicions were proved immediately by warm rice. I repeat, the rice was warm, a cardinal sin for a sushi restaurant. And they STILL cut their sushi too large. Holy hell, I think these were larger than last time I was here. This is not value, people, and it’s not the habits of a good restaurant. To make matters worse, there was a flavour in the rice I couldn’t identify. Was the rice actually salted?
In defense, the miso was good. You know what, I am not sure people got what I was saying exactly 72 words ago. Each nigiri was like four inches long. Whose mouth can accommodate this? Please explain to me what makes Wasabi the often praised best sushi place in town. Disagree with my thoughts on Sushi Star, but Sendo, Tokyo—hell, the sushi bar at Superstore is better than this. You could add two more nigiri with the amount of fish on my plate. Lazy. I have recanted previous reviews based on repeated advice from friends. Only on a few occasions have my initial reviews been rendered incorrect. This is not one of those times. Wasabi either doesn’t read reviews or don’t pay mine any mind. And that’s okay. They are obviously successful so don’t require my criticism. But I cannot see myself returning with so many superior alternatives available. One thing is certain, Wasabi’s reputation as the best sushi restaurant in town is as deserved as 12 Years a Slave winning the best picture Oscar (Gravity all the way).
But let me end this review on a different note. I am getting increasingly annoyed at the judgement that non-Japanese cannot run a sushi restaurant. Let’s excuse the complete racist over/undertones of such a statement and state that some of the best sushi restaurants I’ve seen have been run by non-Japanese. It is honestly ignorant and factually incorrect—your ethnicity is not a requirement for culinary skill. In fact, sushi has spread so quickly throughout the globe, many neighboring nations to Japan can claim a lifelong training in the craft. So my criticism of Wasabi has nothing to do with the nationality of its owners.
By noon, this place was swamped, with the register constantly buzzing. Like I said; these people don’t need me…but given that same logic, most Chinese buffets in town are still in business. Catering to people who think nigiri is a country in Africa doesn’t make you the greatest restaurant in the world. Sushi places have an odd stratum to compare to. Are you better than Superstore sushi? Are you superior to what we can grab in thirty seconds walking into a big block retailer? If you cannot measure up, then you have a problem, and Wasabi has been left wanting.
It’s not a plea for content, just a fact of observation.
My recent review of Zaffron proved that restaurants can slip by in my efforts to review every place in town. This year, I have plans to not only continue what I started but also re-review many places deserving of second chances.
This is best proven with Japanese restaurants.
With chefs so often shifting places, what’s good one year may not translate to following years. So I’ve decided to review all the Japanese restaurants again. So many people claim Wasabi is the best place in town—I want to see why, because my first visit was not remarkable. I named Sushi Star the best, a fact often countered by critics. Did it fall from grace? Further, I want to ensure people about the best Chinese, as it is the most often asked question, so I will be re-reviewing a few of those over again as well. Finally, if there are new places or ones I’ve missed, please tell me—many of these don’t have the forsite or the knowledge to list themselves (or do so properly) on Yelp, Urbanspoon or Trip Advisor. Maybe they’re afraid. Regardless, these are where a lot of people look.
I typed this out at Sushi Star, as I’m giving them the fair shake yet again. Finding places on a Saturday is difficult. My first, second, and third options all bombed out. One is closed for a month and another looks to be shut down permanently. These things happen.
I know someone who works at Pappa Yianni’s.
No worries, just act professional. My signature netbook was feeling considerably larger suddenly.
Gone is the puzzlingly spelled Cariboo, now replaced with Pappa Yianni’s—billed as a Mediterranean grill.
So what classifies a Mediterranean restaurant? It’s a big region, encompassing twenty-one countries and just as many cuisines. I mean, would you advertise your restaurant as just being Asian?
Okay, admittedly, some do, but I personally don’t offer those much respect. It’s fine if they have the word “Asia/n” in their title, but I like restaurants to lock down their cuisine, at least when they try to claim one. I’ve been to Mediterranean restaurants focusing more on Italian or Spanish. Few ever focus on Moroccan or Lebanese—those restaurants take pride in their ethnicity. But just calling a restaurant Mediterranean almost sounds unfocused. Are they embarrassed of their cuisine? Perhaps it sounds more exotic than simply calling it Greek, which Pappa Yianni’s most assuredly is, proven by music overhead obviously acquired from the same shop as every other Greek restaurant I’ve ever been to.
The menu had thirteen items. Thirteen. Not even broken up into appetizers or desserts—just a single page of entrees (note: this has changed since last I visited). A separate page detached from the menu detailed the specials for the week, each with lofty prices though certainly with portions of such titanic size, they’d have to be carried to my plate by the Colossus of Rhodes. They’re all dinner entrees, meaning the owners expect/assume everyone walking in at lunch will take in the buffet for $12.95. The spread across the tables was unimpressive to say the least, with a layout more reminiscent of Bonanzas (yes, remembering we used to have one). Half the buffet was occupied by the standards of the salad bar—metal bowls filled with mounds of what is only allegorically referred to as “salad”, fringed by fake greens and stainless steel, rationing a side table for a spattering of ethnically vague dishes. Seriously, someone needs to tell these people that being a carvery is not the secret to a restaurant’s success. Basically, this is the same tactic used by the previous restaurant that occupied this space. I gave it some middling praise but thought it was dated then and it still is today. Carved meat at a salad bar is not only dull, it’s borderline passé—only an allure on Sundays for the elderly or for families that want a break from their daily dose of microwavable ready-made meals. Someone may argue that this spread was better than the Cariboo’s, but I don’t remember the Cariboo’s being this lacklustre.
Being in a Greek restaurant despite its apparent denial, I ordered the hummus with pita bread. And being a Greek restaurant, I was served enough food to supply a Somali family for a week. The hummus was not bad though a little runny. The bread was lightly toasted but obviously purchased from Shoppers Wholesale. I know that because I buy from Shopper’s and can recognize the product.
To follow, I ordered the souvlaki, which…honestly, wasn’t bad. It was plated with effort, not tossed lazily onto my plate. The Greek salad wasn’t the greatest; the feta was shredded rather than cubed. The olives still had their pits. But the rice and potato was cooked adequately. The chicken—a tad overcooked. Once again, like every Greek meal I’ve had, there was altogether far too much food. I love the fact I was informed the specials were dinner entrees, and that I had ordered from the general menu which featured smaller dishes. If this was small, a dinner plate would have carried enough mass to pull down orbiting satellites.
Like previous reviews, one of the biggest dilemmas facing Pappa Yianni’s is competition. It sits next to the far superior Twisted Cork. The difference being the Cork is an established restaurant priding on quality food taken to plate patiently and properly, where Pappa Yianni appears to cater to those with only thirty minutes to spare at lunch (assuming you order the buffet; my entree took considerable time to arrive). They found a niche and settled into a role. Since I don’t care for buffets, and since my interest in Greek cuisine is apparently fading faster than my ability to control my own weight, there’s not much reason for me to return to Pappa Yianni’s. If you followed this review to this end, I can admit you may not care about these issues when needing a quick meal at lunch. It certainly didn’t matter to the dozen construction workers that flooded the restaurant at lunch. If you are in that category, knock yourself out. I’ll be next door.
I am discovering trends on Urbanspoon I honestly don’t like. Recently, several reviewers (meaning two) made a point of criticizing my reviews. Unlike Yelp and TripAdvisor, there is no way to contact reviewers personally on Urbanspoon. So to call me out, these critics posted their own reviews…except they weren’t reviews—populating a perfectly blameless restaurant page with attacks upon another critic. It’s honestly unprofessional; they have no place there as they don’t enlighten readers about whether or not to visit said establishment. Agree or disagree, I’ve never attacked any critic unless he/she was being intentionally ignorant (well, okay, at least not publically). These non-productive reviews have since been removed. Like I commented on my recent CBC interview, I don’t write reviews in a simple bullet-point format. It was a slow evolution to adopting a style inspired by movie critics I admire like Bob Chipman and the great Roger Ebert. I’ve made mistakes, and I often go on tangents. I’ve learned to curtail my writing length based on Yelp’s posting limitations—ensuring the content remains under 700 words. That being said, I won’t stop being honest, and if a place doesn’t measure up, I’ll say why. I’ll also repeat what I said on the radio and emphasize that I don’t go into any place knowing it’s going to suck. Not every place can and should be a Michelin-grade restaurant. Just because it doesn’t get a 5-star doesn’t mean it’s not great. Read the reviews to fully understand and appreciate a location’s strengths. I may offer a 3-star on a place that fits every criteria you look for.
Second, Urbanspoon offers the opportunity to vote on whether or not a review is helpful or not. Beyond the fact that you can up-vote your OWN reviews, I’ve also discovered that on many pages, every negative review (not just mine) is down-voted for not being helpful. Just before I visited a recent restaurant, I checked its Urbanspoon page and discovered that the only entries voted on were the negative reviews, all of which were deemed “not useful”. There are two possibilities, the first being that a supporter of the restaurant is trying to suppress in many situations honest critiques. The second possibility is that it is the restaurant itself trying to quash negative exposure. Both are unprofessional. I started on Urbanspoon but have since found it lacking, becoming more a pit where anonymous haters can rant. I’ll still post there, but believe Urbanspoon will soon become inconsequential
Zaffrron Cuisine appeared out of nowhere in a random search on a PG website—a second Persian restaurant to follow on the heels of its immensely popular progenitor Shiraz. But to be Frank—and damn Franks for being so upfront—Zaffron and Shiraz are by no means related outside of their shared cuisine. Rated on their initial impressions, Shiraz is more a proper restaurant while Zaffron apes a cafe at lunch, with me assuming that it transforms into a bistro come nightfall as flawlessly as a GoBot (meaning not so much). Both Shiraz and Zaffron label themselves as cafes but Zaffron is the closest to the claim. There is a bakery display and a buffet. The restaurant is tiny with less than eleven tiny square tables tiled about a small building looking more like a renovated house than a business. But the aforementioned buffet is not actually a buffet; it’s a replication of a technique I wished not to encounter since my stretch in a Catholic private school—that of the cafeteria counter.
This is not a roadside diner on the way to Quesnel catering to exposed ass-cracks, highway prostitutes, and folks named Jethro with the one good remaining tooth to open beer bottles with. (Wait, do we have highway prostitutes?) Only one other restaurant in my journeys has operated in the same fashion as Zaffron, Just Goode Food…and in an amusing sense of irony, Zaffron is the one with good food while I wouldn’t return to the other unless you tore out my fingernails and dipped my hand in Varsol.
Upon entering Zaffron and greeting the pleasant owner (assuming), I was informed that she would fill my plate according to my cravings among the various buckets—eight in fact, though only three had anything in them. My fault for showing up early.
Zaffron felt like part cafe, part Starbucks; how did that come about? It’s almost like having two ingredients, each differentiated by its own color, threw them in a liquidizer and hit puree. You can see bits of each scattered about like a Jackson Pollock. The waste disposal bin looks taken from a coffee chain, likewise for the refreshment display. My tea arrived in a paper cup with one of those cardboard jackets to prevent burning. I had to slide it down to check the name on the side of the cup. Despite these, there are still huge hallmarks of Persian culture, more so than Shiraz when it first opened. Arabic lettering is scrawled across supporting beams. Wonderful paintings and photos line the walls. I would have immediately fallen in love with such an establishment if the franchise-like fragments hadn’t shattered my suspension of disbelief.
Zaffron is still good…but will it survive: that’s the five dollar question. If it was the first of its type in town, I would hope so, but Shiraz fought tooth and nail to reach the level of respect achieved. It was rough around the edges from the start but I loved it then; looking at it now, it stands as a testament to quality service and business etiquette. Zaffron has its work cut out for it. From the onset, it has to contend with location—London Drugs blocks my line of sight between Zaffron and Shiraz. I could walk between the two in under two minutes. If Zaffron was located in College Heights, I would exclaim like a herald to the masses of its merits, but with Shiraz so close, which one would I prefer?
Obviously Shiraz, having earned its place as one of the city’s premiere locations. What does that leave Zaffron? I want it to succeed, I really do. I want to come back during a dinner service and have them prove to me that they’re an alternate choice worthy of patronizing. This is a nightmare for reviews like me. Zaffron is a good cafe and as those go, one of the better in town. The speed of food delivery is astounding for those on a time crunch in the afternoon. It tastes good with a real kick of spice I wish Shiraz would indulge in from time to time. It offers free wireless internet and pleasant service from an easy to understand front of house. It’s clearly a labour of love and one which I am more than happy to support. My only hope is that they can perma press their wrinkles and even out their inconsistencies. Mugs replacing paper cups, a menu at lunch, and the removal of decor choices resembling a fast food joint.
Finally, about the price. The not-really-buffet costs $9 but my final bill with $4 tip came to $35. So what happened? The tea-in-a-paper-cup cost me $1.50. I ordered a tiramisu which cost an additional $4.50. I ordered three pastries to take home, $2.00 each. That means the container of hummus I purchased was a staggering $8 (excluding tax). I’ve bought homemade hummus from craft fairs which didn’t cost as much. So a good place with good food but avoid the deli counter.
I’d love to, but I failed to review this place in time. Bite Me! (With the slammer) replaced the not-forgotten Empress Tea House. But before I had a chance to check them out, Bite Me! went under. They claim it was because of staffing issues and not because of lack of revenue. Unfortunate. Another casualty.
White Goose Bistro
To quote Yoda, “blown your mind would be.” Given my last update, this should’ve been as obvious as the needle in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s arm (too soon?). All callousness aside, White Goose Bistro has always remained my favorite restaurant in town, though not as I’ve admitted my most frequented location. Its distance from my house coupled with my obligations to this blog has prevented regularity. When accommodating visitors, White Goose is the first place mentioned, the first visited, and the one I prefer during celebration. Already my yearly birthday tradition, I plan on eventually calling on it for Mother’s Days, Easter, Thanksgiving, Earth Day, Palm Sunday, Ramadan and, what the hell, let’s include Kwanza and Arbor Day. White Goose Bistro is the place one looks to if they’re a foodie, a true foodie. Boston Pizza be damned, I embrace the title, and no other restaurant relishes in satisfying one’s curiosity more. It’s also the only restaurant in town with a chef’s menu—an actual tasting menu—where you’re up to the chef’s whims that day. If food can be considered art then what White Goose Bistro brings to the table is truly worthy of framing, at least more than Warhol’s stupid Campbell’s Soup can. The common question asked, one repeated with my recent CBC interview, was can restaurants in Prince George be measured against the best in larger cities like Vancouver or Calgary. Even if I could mention more than one as proof, I would probably still mention only one. White Goose Bistro. We have other places, amazing locations worthy of recommendation, more than enough to justify my argument that we can ask for more and do indeed get it, but simple questions often require simple answers and mine only has three words. The best restaurant in Prince George, White Goose Bistro.
In the lead up to the best restaurant in Prince George, I am going to list out the top ten, saving #1 for Saturday. As always, this list is totally subjective on my part and throws every restaurant into the mix.
10. Sushi Star
9. Mai Thai
8. Spicy Greens
7. The Copper Pig
6. Nancy Os
4. Twisted Cork
2. North 54
Seriously…at this point, it should be obvious…
Basically, I created this award to point out the truly impressive evening events commonly put on by Nancy’s O’s and Shiraz. In truth, this award is owned by Nancy Os. I admit it; this is that one award I created for Nancy Os—it’s one of those truly special restaurants I wish deserved more credit. This is not some hand out award for participating. I am not going soft around the edges. Nancy Os truly deserves recognition and this was the one award where it rates the highest. It’s food is amazing, the décor is unique, and the staff is pleasant. Whenever anyone complains about PG cuisine, I’d tell them to walk down 3rd Avenue. North 54, Nancy Os, and White Goose are all there.