Bistro Sakana on UrbanspoonSituated in the trendy part of Yaletown, Bistro Sakana is a up-scale Japanese restaurant. It has a very nice calming atmosphere with candles on each table. The music was playing a bit too loud which I’m always annoyed with. I hate raising my voice and trying hard to hear what the other person is saying.

I had seen the Aburi Hako Zushi (torched box sushi) and knew that I would order that for sure. I got the Sockeye Jalapeno Aburi $14 which had wild sockeye salmon layered with sushi rice and flame seared with their spicy mayo sauce and jalapeno peppers on top. I am a huge fan of Miku’s salmon aburi, but this was a good competition. I really liked it – lots.

idearabbit-bistrosakana6idearabbit-bistrosakanaidearabbit-bistrosakana2The Pork Gyoza $7.50 was satisfactory, but WAY OVERPRICED. Totally not worth $8. Though I guess the price comes with dining at a higher-end restaurant.

idearabbit-bistrosakana3 idearabbit-bistrosakana5Sockeye Jalepeno Aburi $14 idearabbit-bistrosakana4

Sheepie ordered the Mango Roll $7.00 (left) which was quite sad. It was really small and falling apart. It wasn’t flavourful at all. Another overpriced item. The Salmon Roll $3.75, Tuna Nigiri $2.00 and Salmon Nigiri $2.25 seemed well prepared. I had the Salmon Nigiri, and it was really good.

The tables against the walls were a bit tight and would have liked a little more room between the tables. There was one time when the server picked up Sheepie’s tea cup to fill up and she almost elbowed the other customer at the next table. She didn’t even notice though. But other than that, the service was great.

It was a nice restaurant, but some dishes way overpriced for quantity and quality. I would definitely like to come back for more Aburi, but will have to explore other dishes on the side next time.

 Taste: carrotcarrotcarrot    Price for Value: carrotcarrot

Atmosphere:  carrotcarrotcarrotcarrot   Service:  carrotcarrotcarrotcarrot
Location: carrotcarrotcarrotcarrot

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France on Urbanspoon
Sheepie runs a Chocolate Club, and so every month, we go to different chocolate cafes and taste their chocolate. Sheepie is a chocolatier hobbyist and is always eager to share his makings with his members. The club runs through a popular social group online which allows one with different interests come together in person. It’s really great opportunity if you’ve just moved to another city and want to make new friends and connections. The club is free and there are no obligations – it’s just people with similar interests meeting and sharing the experience. Sheepie takes time out of his crazy busy schedule to volunteer to let others know more about chocolate.

So it was another chocolate gathering. Unfortunately, the cafe had a fire which meant that we had to sit outside. That wasn’t a problem since the owner Anne-Geneviève Poitras built benches beyond the sidewalk into the road called parklets. (something you see on Robson street by Cafe Crepe).

Since we were like 10 people and we wouldn’t have fit in the small cafe, it was perfect. Some ordered gelato from her and they said she was very cheerful and the food was good.

Because of the limited space, most of us got our drinks from the cafe next door at Coco et Olive. Sheepie had already talked to the people at Coco et Olive as he usually does when bringing the large group to a a cafe.

As Sheepie talked to the group, Anne-Geneviève walked up to him. At first, we thought she was interested in taking part. Then it turned sour and she never took off her big smile the entire time. She thought that we were some event that was trying to sell products to each other on her property. Sheepie tried to convince her that:

  1. we were her customers as some had bought gelato from her
  2. that we were not selling anything and that two people had brought chocolate that they made at home as a hobby and were sharing the food and experience
  3. she demanded that we need a permit to host an event which seemed ridiculous. This has NEVER happened at any other cafe. (in fact, I am Sheepie also organize several other social meetup groups and never had this problem) We were not an ‘event’. For example, why would a few book lovers (like a bookclub) need a permit to talk to each other about books at a cafe? We were not even taking up the entire cafe (well in this case, there wasn’t any cafe to occupy). Chocolate Arts Cafe – Greg Hook loves us and always takes time out of his busy schedule to show us more about chocolate in detail. He’s a real mentor.
  4. she claimed that she built the benches out of her pocket and it was hers. The benches may be hers, but I would like to question the city as to where the property line ends. It’s not on the sidewalk, in fact on the other side of the sidewalk into the road. Some of the members claimed that this was public property whether she built the benches or not.

So like always, I dug in to do some research. Here’s what I found:

Excerpt from City of Vancouver website:

What is a Parklet?
Parklets are public spaces created by extending a platform over a parking space at the
level of the sidewalk. Amenities such as benches, tables, chairs, landscaping, and bike
parking can then be added to create a welcoming public space.
While parklets are sponsored by a private partner, all amenities must remain free and open
for any member of the public to use. Advertising, table service, and other commercial activities are not permitted.

The City will retain ownership of the parklet structure and is responsible for any major
repairs. However, the sponsoring organization is expected to regularly oversee and clean
the parklet, and to maintain any plants incorporated into the design.

So, yes, it is public space that we can all use. We are not running any commercial service of any kind. We are just people who are interested in chocolate, going around the city to try out chocolate at different chocolate stores/cafe. We were not trying to destroy the parklet or the property in any way, rather enjoying the benches in the sun.

Seems like Anne-Geneviève makes a big deal over small things before getting things straight. That or she was paranoid by us because maybe she thought she would get another complaint from the neighbours.

We were asked to leave and come back with a permit. We all went to Coco et Olive instead.
The staff at Coco et Olive called his manager and it seemed like the manager talked to Anne over the phone. Not sure what was exchanged as it was all done behind closed doors.

Oh well, with Sheepie fuming and everyone no longer feeling welcome, we walked away, never to return. Shame, they lost 10 customers…I didn’t even get a chance to try their chocolate which looked pretty good. Too bad…

 Taste: N/A   Price for Value: N/A

Atmosphere:  0  Service:  0
Location: carrotcarrotcarrot

Goodbye Corolla ’97, Hello Yaris 2014

Buying a New Car

So my old 1997 Corolla from Toyota failed the AirCare test. It’s the final year of AirCarein BC, but with some problems (like stalling while driving) this year and the windshield being quite scratched making it a hazard to drive in rain,  I finally decided that it was time to get a new car. Of course, I could continue to drive the car after the AirCare is gone. But although I wouldn’t call myself a ‘tree hugger’ or super ‘green’, I do recycle as much as possible and try to reduce my waste (ie. donating items instead of throwing things away, taking reusable bags when shopping, reusing the backside of printed paper, etc).

The diagnostic test to see why it failed AirCare cost me $180 + tax. It was the catalytic converter that had over the years become clogged and needed to be replaced. The car is still safe to drive and it’s not a problem except it’s just exhausting a bit over the acceptable levels of hydrocarbons determined by AirCare. They told me that the Toyota replacement part would cost $970 + labour $200 and so on, totaling well over $1100. For a car I bought for $1000 in 2009 from my parents, this seemed ridiculous.

But buying a car is no easy task. It’s not a shopping decision that if you don’t like it, you can just keep it in the closet as some clothes that you thought looked good in store but not when you came home. It takes a lot of time. I would be able to extend the insurance from ICBC by 3 months to give me some time to do as much research as possible should I not be able to get a new car in time.

Phase one: Deciding what kind of car you want.
Since I don’t have kids and live in the city, I wanted something that was compact, fuel efficient, easy to maintain and affordable. With gas prices always going up, I was definitely looking for a compact car from the beginning. With budget in mind, I started looking at used cars. I found prices that were really likeable, but there was a downfall – most of them were 2001-2004, meaning not much newer than my ’97, and the odometers were in the 200,000km which was way more than my 130,000km on my Corolla. Most used the same amount of gas so there weren’t going to be any savings from gas usage and not very friendly to the environment either. I was stuck in this stage for a while since the price was so attractive. However, thinking of the future of the vehicle and how it would likely cost more just to maintain it and repair as it gets even older (as I found out with the Corolla), I moved myself into getting a car that was 2 years or newer.

Phase 2: Used or New?
As I started to look at newer (but still used) vehicles, I saw that the prices weren’t that much cheaper than a brand new one. I figured that if I was going to pay that much already, why not add $2000 or so to get a new one instead. It would eliminate the possibility of the used car having through accidents or problems that the dealer may not be honest about. You would be starting at 0 mileage and super clean. The price was still a bit of a deterrent, but when I saw that many were offering 0-0.9% interest and allowing up to 84 months to pay it off, it didn’t seem too big of a monetary issue that I could handle. I figured that I paying $200-$300 per month was doable. So I finally decided that buying a new car was the way to go.

Phase 3: Narrowing down your options
After much research online and talking to people, I narrowed down my options to a Prius C, Yaris, Kia Rio and Honda Fit. There are pros and cons of each which you can read about, but the only way to find out if they’re really fit for you is to go see the actual cars and test drive them. It’s a good idea to go to different dealers even for the same vehicle as each dealer may have different pricing and incentives, not to mention service by the actual staff.

Phase 4: Haggle
I started by emailing local dealers for the Yaris 2014. Let me tell you that none of them would give a straight out price. They wanted me to come in to test drive (even after I had already done that at a local dealer), and still come in, or talk over the phone. I tried, but since the margin for the dealerships on small compact cars is so minimal, all I could get was $150-$200 off. Though I know a friend who haggled and got close to $5000 off of her BMW…but then BMW are more expensive in the first place. I didn’t want to deal with trying to sell the Corolla on my own. Although I frequently resell my old stuff on Craigslist and such, I only had 2.5 months left before my insurance ran out. Also, I was going to be away in Europe for a month, cutting down the time even more. I traded in the Corolla instead.

Phase 5: Final Decision!
After you’ve tried them all out, went to different dealers and continue to look for reviews and videos online, it’s time to make the final decision into which one you want to get. Mine came sort of abruptly. I was pretty sure of getting the Yaris, and started to ask for a white colour. When I found out that there weren’t any whites left in the Lower Mainland, I started to panic. When I went to see a dealer, he also mentioned that the reds were also all sold out. My second colour choice was dark grey, and there was only 1 left. I knew for sure that I didn’t want the ugly 2015 model. So I decided right there (after another test drive, lol) to buy.

Farewell Corolla
Awww…I’m not really into cars, and don’t really get attached to them, yet it was still a little sad to see the car go after it had been with me since I was a teenager. It had been a really good car.



Check back for my review on my Yaris 2014!