[Victoria Fringe Festival 2016] SMUS Shake It Up with Disney’s Camp Rock!

CAMP-ROCK_4CLOCATION:
St. Michaels
University School
3400 Richmond Road
Saanich, BC

SHOWTIMES:
Fri Aug. 26 – 7pm
Sat Aug. 27 – 2pm
Sat Aug. 27 – 7pm

Sometimes it is tough to decide on what to take on as the first Victoria Fringe Festival presentation for the 2016 season. This year, the decision was a no-brainer and I had to see the results of what St. Michaels University School (SMUS) Summer Musical Theatre program produced. The folks involved always deliver a quality educational curriculum to teach the next rising stars the basics while having fun at the same time. On opening night, they put on the musical version of Disney’s Camp Rock.

This show highlights the musical stylings of bands like The Jonas Brothers and the modern sounds of the past decade. Like ’em or not (every generation has their favourite musicians), those who grew up with them had a rollicking time with this production. Opening night was not without a few chuckle-worthy moments, gaffes included; the group was able to roll with it and continue on. They also helped each other out on stage when lines were forgotten and I believe that’s the heart of what this program extols than to provide a higher calibre show other local professional theatre schools like Canadian College of Performing Arts works on. I’ve seen their production of Little Shop of Horrors years ago, and that was a memorable show to which I grinned like a Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland when rubber bands were shot towards audiences!

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[Vancouver, BC] Yan Can Sushi It Down on Thurlow

Ichiban Ya Vancouver IMG_0493

Sushi Yan Japanese Restaurant
770 Thurlow St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 559-3988
 

E: How is it possible than when we’re out of town, James can home in on good dining experiences? As infrequent as our visits are, I suspect his homing instinct of following the first pretty Asian lady he finds here is key. He scored great with saying let’s go to Aki, but I’m uncertain with Sushi Yan, It had the look of Sushi Plus back home, and while he loves cheap, it does not always mean quality.

J: If you want to eat on the cheap in Vancouver, you can’t do any worse than a Subway. But if a foot long sub from an international corporate franchise doesn’t appeal, then you have the choice of flying to New York for a taste of Carnegie Deli or try something completely different

Leaving the comfort of our hotel at the Marriott Pinnacle, our mission if we chose to accept it was to dine at Joe Fortes’ Seafood Restaurant. Upon arrival, the place was packed. Needless to say, we didn’t accept our mission. In fact, we almost lost our nerve and turned around to return back to our nice hotel (and maybe some eats in the Marriott’s restaurant). But while spinning into the opposite direction, I spotted an older building that housed a Japanese restaurant…in the basement. I was intrigued.

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[Vancouver, BC] Being Kissed at Aki Japanese Restaurant

IMG_3780Aki Japanese Restaurant
1368 W Pender St

Vancouver, BC
(604) 682-4032

J: If there is one thing Victoria as a city lack, that is an authentic Japanese restaurant. Ed and I had to cross the water just to sample some delicacies after I did some research and found this place. Ed listened to me dribble with excitement over our impending meal on the ferry ride over, and I don’t think this time you will hear Ed complain.

E: I doubt eating crab is considered part of an everyday meal. This trendy restaurant kicks a lot of concepts in what is considered Japanese style high dining up to sinfully pleasurable levels. I’d say this establishment is deserving of at least two Michelin stars! I’m glad that we popped into this city for a prolonged trip just to reacquaint ourselves with what we’re missing from big city living. Not since going to Whistler or Seattle (combined) have I found a comparable restaurant. At Aki, Spring has truly arrived and the waitresses are cute too. Technically, Aki means Autumn, and I was prepared to try to impress the ladies with the limited Japanese I knew.

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You Can Sate those Winter Blues with Cold Comfort!

cold-comfort1115 N Park St #2
Victoria, BC
(778) 433-5215

I miss being able to buy Cold Comfort Ice Cream at nearby outlets like The Root Cellar. This dessert is made in small batches and the unique flavour combinations are what makes this brand special. Ever since the Canadian Food Inspection Agency came in to say this product can not be sold elsewhere due to insufficient labelling (it did not conform to legislative standards), I have to visit the shop in the North Park neighbourhood of Downtown Victoria.

The issue came down last year in December and my craving for this local delicacy did not hit until recently. I discovered on their Facebook page photos showing rose water and lavender flavoured delights. I crossed my finger and hoped those were still available. I love the exotic flavours this local company offers! There’s a texture in their products not created by other brands. I love it when companies innovate. Ben and Jerry has competition!

The fact that Cold Comfort’s base of operations offers ice cream mashed in between cookies, graham crackers or a doughnut only cemented my need to visit sooner than later. I don’t want to wait for the Spring or Summer months to arrive to sate my taste buds.

Recently, they’ve been offering some unique flavours like Earl Grey and Blueberry Swirl. I wanted to savour every remaining bit off my plate. Anyone watching me would think I’m making love with the pottery. While those type of manners do not fly, is what I’m doing wrong? I ordered this cream sandwiched between a doughnut supplied by Empire Doughnuts.

On a cool night, even at the start of Spring, this company’s product certainly hits the spot. The store is open late on Fridays for the dating crowd, and who cares if I arrived alone. When I need to embrace Cold Comfort, I’m just there. With this place also selling Emile’s Organic Bread and Four Quarters Meats for sturdier meals, I may come here instead of hitting the grocery store for loading up on snacks for my trip to Seattle next month!

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[Victoria, BC] Chinese New Year Celebrations in the Heart of Chinatown

In my youth, Chinese New Year meant going to Victoria, BC’s Chinatown with my parents and watching the lion dances held at this special time of the year. I recall fond memories when firecrackers were handed out to my dad, and he would let me hold the incense stick to light the firecrackers. He tossed them close to where the dancers were and they exploded. When nobody was looking, he even let me light and throw a few myself. That excitement gave life to those dances from decades ago. These days, due to fire regulations and safety, what’s done is a tamer comparison of what I fondly recall. At least the purpose remained the same: the noise is meant to scare the evil away so prosperity can enter the businesses.

On a variable cloudy day, the sun came out to shine on today’s celebrations. That’s a good sign for what’s to come. And I got to hang out with very good friends while we enjoyed watching the lions dance around the block that cumulated to a martial arts demonstration by the Hung Fut Kung Fu club, which has been around since 1974. I’ll let the pictures I took speak for itself:

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So-Ya Offers Late-Night Dining in Victoria, BC

10370885_589031607873727_7322713566440510200_nSo-Ya
606 Trounce Alley
Victoria, BC
(778) 265-5151

Sadly this operation closed February 06, 2015 due to “family emergency.” Based on their last Facebook message, they have no plans to continue after their situation has resolved.

E: Trounce Alley is one of those places that I can expect to find some interesting hidey-ho places to dine in. At one end is a tapa bar and at another a Japanese diner where they treat serving fast food with a lot of class. Walking in there was like venturing to Tokyo’s high fashion district.

J: I wondered why they had a chandelier above a table in all this pro-Japanese decor. Perhaps a large lantern would suffice. But I wasn’t here to nitpick the designer. So-Ya is what I have been waiting for all this time. At least a restaurant in sleepy Victoria that is open until midnight on weekdays! So if you’re just walking out after seeing a movie at Vic Theatre in Nootka Court, you know you can get something good to eat at So-Ya.

E: To find them open on a Monday was a surprise. Traditionally, no self-respecting Japanese restaurant is open on Sunday or Monday; fishmongers don’t work on these days and any supply the restaurants use can be a day old. Thankfully, I wasn’t quite after fish this day.

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I just wanted a crispy snack and OD’d on deep fried panko breaded seafood quickly deep fried, a yakisoba and a delicious ‘secret’ cheesecake.

J: I had the secret cheesecake for dessert too but my main was a seafood stone bowl. The bowl is rice mixed with prawns, squid and oysters that are still cooking as it is brought to your table. The server mixes it up for you and then reminds you that the meal is still hot. And he wasn’t kidding. I slipped up and shoved a spoonful into my mouth before dousing my furnace face with liquid.

E: I could feel the heat from where I sat and I did warn James. But did he listen? At least my meal was cooler and simpler to manage, even though it was less filling. I didn’t find anything special in the oysters used. I’m fairly sure they were Fanny Bay and that didn’t make for a great intro to this style of Japanese cuisine.

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At least the Tako Wasabi is this restaurant’s saving grace. It’s glazed texture and simple crunchiness was very savoury. The wasabi kicked in seconds later and it lingered before I washed the meal down with a simple ginger ale. I think SO-YA does have a few interesting gems, and it’ll require revisits to find them.

J: I have to concur. It was like a crisp cool summer salad. There was nothing critical I could say about this dish. But critical is what was on my mind for the seafood stone bowl. The sauce that the rice was cooking in was made up of chicken broth, soy sauce and oyster sauce.

In It was too rich and too large of a portion. I could understand there being only one small oyster in the dish, seafood is expensive after all but I was scratching my head at why big slices of onion were plentiful and there was a single slice of bok choy. The overabundance of onions ruined any flavour of the dish thus completely putting me off from my meal. With the seafood stone bowl, some experimentation is in order.

E: I think that goes back to my previous argument about why some restaurants are closed Sunday and Mondays. The stocks are low and fishes are not being pulled out of the sea. Perhaps, on a different day, this place can get the proper amount of ingredients right. I had nothing to complain about in what I ate that night, but if I’m to touch a noodle or congee style dish, it better be filled with all the fixings I’m hoping for.

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J: In anything I ordered, the gem was the mystery cheesecake. So creamy with just the right amount of sweetness. Their dessert menu was adequate but here’s hoping they will add or experiment with desserts that have red bean as an ingredient. It is very popular in Japan. It would be a bold statement to introduce to our locals. Perhaps it may pull in customers from Japan who are currently going to school here.

E: In subsequent visits, I grew fond of their ramen noodle dishes. This place was great for that!

Until I find some place in town that offers cute confectionaries that look like a bunny, there’s no denying that going to Japan to experience the most exotic tastes is a must. The menu was varied enough to sate the tastes of the curious, but I’m beyond that. Where’s the grilled eel?

J: Probably the same place as the grilled squid, in Japan.

Ed and I have tossed around many ideas in past articles. We’ll both admit that running a food establishment is always a high risk but there is no more risk with trying new ideas if you don’t go overboard with it. Maybe one day we’ll see a local Japanese restaurant celebrating the seasons in a fitting manner. Who’s up for catching their own goldfish?

4 Blokes out of 5

 

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