Food Bites: Sushi Garden – Lougheed

Restaurant: Sushi Garden
Address: 4269 Lougheed Highway; Burnaby, BC V5C3Y6
Telephone: 604-294-0104
Sushi Garden on Urbanspoon

Just a couple blocks away from Brentwood Mall, the Sushi Garden on Lougheed isn’t what you’d call fine Japanese cuisine, but if you’re looking to grab some cheap sushi to go then this can be a decent pit stop.

Atmosphere:
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I’m not going to kid anyone here and I’ll probably say this more than once, but this place is not going to satisfy anyone looking for great service and authentic Japanese cuisine; this is a place where people go for a quick bite. With that being said though, the decor inside isn’t all half bad. The majority of the floor is lit with recessed lights, and there are big windows on the right side (or left depending on which way you’re facing) of the restaurant that lets in more than ample lighting during the day.

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The tables and chairs are simple, but they work. Wooden tables all around, with booth seats lined across the walls (not actual booths, but faced towards the middle). The place is generally clean, although the table does get a little sticky sometimes if the server didn’t wipe it properly from the prior patrons. The place itself isn’t exactly large, but they do cram quite a few tables on the floor, so be prepared to bump into someone when moving about; people are generally nice about it.

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Now the vibe is completely different from your typical sit in restaurant; everything is quite fast paced here, and the servers are always moving around.

Always.

It almost feels like you’re at a fast food restaurant, with the added bonus of your food being brought to your table. This could be taken either way… You’re benefiting from the fast service you usually look for at an establishment like McDonalds, but you’re missing the service of an actual server that usually comes from a typical sit down restaurant. I’m not saying they’re rude or anything (although they can be at times), but it their minds will always be on their next task, which can clearly be seen on their faces.

Food:
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Can’t necessarily say the food is terrible, but you can’t really say it’s exceptional either. It’s one of those places where the food is just “ok”, a place where if you’re craving for sushi and in the area you might walk in just for the convenience.

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We ordered a couple of rolls, a tuna gomae, and a salmon don… As expected, nothing too special. The rolls were a decent size, and had a good ratio between rice and filling. The rice itself has a good texture to it, nothing too mushy, so that’s always a plus at a restaurant that doesn’t exactly pride itself on 3 star Michelin quality food. The salmon don was quite typical, but it was a big portion so if anything it is worth its weight in… Well, rice and fish I guess. The tuna gomae… Well let’s just say it was drenched in a liquid-like peanut sauce, and the tuna was slightly frozen… Not recommended.

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Overall:
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this place. At a glance the place looks like it can be a fancy Japanese restaurant, but when you actually sit down at a table it feels cheap. The food isn’t spectacular, but compared to other Japanese restaurants in the Lower Mainland it is quite inexpensive. They are always busy, but half the time it feels like they are doing take-out orders. Staff are quite inattentive, but at the same time it feels like they’re trying to do 5 things at a time.

It’s a sit down fast-ish food Japanese restaurant.

Final Thoughts:
It’s not a great place, but it’s not a bad place… Given what it is. Cheap Japanese take-out in the area? Go for it. Hate crowds? May want to look elsewhere.

- Malffej

To Workout or Not… Is There a Right Answer?

So I was at the gym the other day and thought to myself, “What’s the point?”

Now of course the answer is simple; to stay healthy, look good, and live longer. But is the answer really that simple though?

How is she standing on her head without falling (Source: lolalollipop)?

There seems to have been a health craze over the past decade or two, and it’s continuing to grow. More and more people are going to the gym, eating healthy, trying to lose weight (key word: trying), and in response to this the market has changed. The opening of fitness centers have exploded (the baby boom of the gym, if you will), countless articles, magazines, social media, diets, weight loss programs, and almost anything to do with the word “health” have spawned and spread across the globe (maybe not the globe per say… but definitely North America). Many people have been converted into local fitness gurus spreading the joys of being healthy to their friends and family, like a plague spreading across the nation.

This is a good thing, it really is; call it the slow revival of the human race, clawing its way out of the clutches of what has become to be known as the Standard American Diet.

Completely overgeneralized and stereotyped, but there’s some truth in it (Source: nutrientrich)…

What I’m more focused on is the other aspect of healthy living… Working out.

Let me get this out of the way first; I am definitely not trying to wage a war towards anyone that hits the gym because again, it is a good thing. People want to go to the gym not only to stay healthy and live longer, but to look better, boost their confidence, increase their overall morale, and just feel good about themselves in general (actually the last three reasons sound the same… Anyways).

Let’s first look at it from an economical standpoint. The idea of opportunity cost is the value of the next best alternative, had you not picked your first choice. This can apply to anything which essentially has more than one option. For example, Let’s say you chose to not work overtime that Friday night and instead went out to a movie with your friends. Your choice was to go out for the movie, but the cost was losing out on making that overtime pay that you could have worked instead. Same principle works here; the primary choice would be working out for an hour, but at what cost? In that hour there could have been countless things that could have been done… Maybe you haven’t seen someone in a long time and could have grabbed a coffee with them, or maybe you had some homework that needed to be finished. Maybe there was a project for work that needed to be completed and you needed all the time you could get, or maybe you just needed an hour to relax and take a breather. What is the real cost of working out?

What’ll it be (Source: MTVHive)?

Then there’s the mathematical standpoint. Say an average person starts working out at the age of 18, until they reach the age of 65 (just taking a general lifespan of an adult, cutting out the adolescence and senior years) for about an hour a day, four times a week. In the 47 years that they work out, given 52 weeks in a year:

4 hours a week…

208 hours a year…

…9776 hours in 47 years which adds up to be approximately 407.33 days, which turns out to be about a year and and 42 days or so.

So essentially you’ve wasted a year and 42 days of your life in its prime years, only to hopefully tack on years at the end of your life when you’re essentially, “past your prime”. Is it worth it?

So then let’s look at a standpoint that can’t necessarily be calculated as a finite conclusion that everyone can agree on; the value. Does the loss of a little over a year during the “best years” equate to adding an indeterminable amount of time at the end of your life? Could you give up spending those extra hours out traveling, exploring, eating, sleeping, or doing anything your heart desired to gain spending more time swinging back and forth in a rocking chair until you expire?

I’m livin’ the life now (Source: cbssmm)!

Then there’s the whole notion of indeterminable factors; how much extra time are you guaranteed to gain by exercising regularly? Well technically speaking it’s impossible to calculate it, as it isn’t exactly 1 + 1. Yes there are generalizations and studies that have shown “this” amount will equate to “this” much… But that isn’t necessarily tailored to every individual person. Our bodies are all different, so any sort of case study in this area can only provide one with a general estimate.

What about what some people like to call, “Acts of God” (and believe me I’ve seen more than a handful of legal documents which use the exact phrase)? More specifically, things that are out of your control? What if you injure yourself while working out? Wouldn’t that make it counterproductive? In fact, it doesn’t even need to be while you’re working out, what if you just injure yourself, period? What if it’s permanent? Exercising couldn’t have any possible direct correlation with you getting hit by a brick falling off a building, but things still happen. My friend’s uncle once told us a story about his coworker switching to an all organic diet, and how that because he’s done so he is guaranteed to live longer if he keeps it up. My friend’s uncle responded with, “Ok, but now you’re spending twice the amount you do on groceries, and if you happen to get hit by a car going at 100 km/hour, no amount of organic apples and oranges will save you from that.” Now that’s a little grim, but the same idea is there; “Acts of God” are called so because they are the coincidences of life, fortunate or not.

If only it were that easy (Source: bheadman)…

It seems there are so many factors that outweigh the benefits of working out, and I can see why many come up with excuses for why they aren’t, because at the end of the day no matter how much we eat healthy and exercise, we’re still going to die.

However we can look at this in another perspective. By exercising, we are ensuring that if we survive all those “Acts of God” (which we ultimately cannot control), we will feel healthier overall during our prime years. You can say that the cost was to waste over a year over the course of our lifetime to do so, but that’s all based on personal opinion. Sure we won’t know how much better our lives would be if we worked out compared to if we didn’t, but if we knew things like that then life wouldn’t feel so precious; life wouldn’t be as exciting, and might end up being a mundane stretch of time, counting down until the day we die.

I think anything that mentions the phrase “working out” has to at least include one picture of Arnold (Source: themancave).

So is there a simple answer? No. Is there a right answer? Don’t think so. Everyone will have their own opinion, and yours will be the right answer for only you. So go ahead, hit the gym. Or don’t, go grab a slice of pizza and enjoy it to your heart’s content; do what you want, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Now if only I can find a burger in the shape and weight of a dumbbell…

- Malffej

Food Bites: Ciao Bella

Restaurant: Ciao Bella
Address: 703 Denman St. Vancouver, BC V6G2L6
Telephone: 604-688-5771
Ciao Bella Italian Restaurant & Piano Bar on Urbanspoon

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Just about a block away from the end of Robson, Ciao Bella is located on the corner of  Denman and is a great place to stop by for Italian food; it’s worth the extra trek towards the outer skirts of Downtown.

Atmosphere:
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There’s a mini grand piano in the restaurant.

I could just end it here, but I guess I should elaborate. Ciao Bella is an Italian restaurant by nature, but also tags on the words “piano bar” as well. They offer live music Wednesdays through Sundays, under the notion that good food should always be accompanied by good music.

To make a long story short (as it has nothing to do with the restaurant), I somehow ended up with four other people on Valentine’s day at this restaurant… With no reservations. Suffice to say, we were lucky to even get seats that night. We weren’t able to dine inside where the piano was, but we did manage to snag a table out on their patio. Keep in mind that this was mid February in Vancouver… Not exactly warm outside; however the patio was heated (quite well actually) so no complaints here.

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Even though we were outside, we could still hear a bit of the live music that was playing inside; since it was Valentine’s Day it was pretty much an entire night of Ol’ Blue Eyes. Part of me wished I was inside, but at the same time it was great being on the patio; made it seem somewhat more authentic.

Food:
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As with any Italian restaurant, first comes the bread.

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It was all right here at Ciao Bella, but what made it special is what they have on every table; complementary olive oil and vinegar. Something so simple (and probably very cost effective) turns into something extremely tasty given the right mix (think chemistry here); just make sure you don’t use too much vinegar or you’ll end up puckering your lips like a fish.

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The main courses in general are quite good. Decent portion sizes, full of flavour (and when I say flavour, I mean real flavour, not some guy pretending to be a chef armed with a box of salt), and a wide selection of choices on the menu.

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One of my buddies Noslen ordered from the “build your own pasta” menu, which lets you choose your own type of pasta, sauce, and different add-ons. He went with the calamari, which came in a white wine and tomato sauce. In my opinion it wasn’t anything special, but I’ve had worse and this was certainly above average.

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Nairb and Yerdua shared a penne with the Salmone sauce (Salmon in a white wine and tomato cream sauce), which was… All right. Personally it tasted a little underwhelming, but it wasn’t bad by any means.

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Annael ordered the red snapper with a tomato basil sauce, accompanied with capers, garlic, olives, mashed potatoes and some roasted vegetables; it was delightful. The fish wasn’t overcooked (you’d be surprised at how many restaurants tend to do this), and the sauce paired very well with it.

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For myself I ordered the linguine with an Arrabbiata sauce (a spicy garlic tomato basil sauce) with a side of meatballs, and it didn’t disappoint. I’ll say this; it wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it still carried a lot of flavour, and the meatballs were nice and full of actual meat (I’m not a fan of airy meatballs). The sauce had a good balance of spice that gave it enough of a zing but not enough to burn the taste buds, and the linguine itself was cooked just right (al dente, if you will).

Overall:
The restaurant isn’t exactly pretty. It doesn’t look very modern, it doesn’t glimmer in the night, and it won’t blow anyone’s socks off, and some could even say that it looks a bit run down. However what Ciao Bella offers isn’t fancy light fixtures and comfy chairs; they offer an authentic Italian experience (to the best of my knowledge anyways). It’s about the food, the people, and the vibe that goes around the air. The live music solidifies this notion of placing importance on the senses, really tasting your food and feeling the atmosphere, to have it all blend together into a cornucopia of bliss and wonderfulness.

The servers are wonderful as well, and they really embody the idea of the people-loving-food-loving-people spirit; a pleasure to talk to, and makes it easy to fork out a bigger tip at the end of the meal (the wallet doesn’t tend to agree). You don’t get places like this as much anymore, especially in a metropolitan city like Vancouver; Ciao Bella is part of a dying breed of restaurants actually focused on how the food tastes over everything else.

Final Thoughts:
It’s a nice little place that should deserve more praise, but would seemingly lose its touch if it were to expand into a typical modern day “in your face” style restaurant. Let Ciao Bella stay the way it is, and let people enjoy food there the way it’s meant to be enjoyed.

- Malffej

Tech Bytes: Moves

Name: Moves
Type: Application (Android/iOS)
Price: (Free/$2.99)

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With the countless number of fitness applications, step counters, smart bands, and who knows what else is out there nowadays, it’s really hard to decide what actually works for you. Moves is an application that tries to quash everything out there with a simple “leave it alone” method, and it might just be what you’re looking for.

Summary:
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Moves is a rather simple application, as it takes almost no time to set up, and you don’t really have to do much with it and it’ll run on its own. The premise behind Moves follows the notion that it is smart enough to track everything for you, without needing to be told to do so. After you install the application, Moves will track wherever you go.

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What sets Moves apart from the competition is how easy it is to use vs. the amount of data you get back. Even when left untouched, Moves will be able to provide a GPS mapping of your day, along with popular locations you’ve visited (if it’s the first time you’ve visited the location, Moves will mark it as a general location until you pick from a list of suggestions which I believe is powered by Foursquare), and depending on your speed it can determine whether you were travelling by foot or transportation.

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The beauty of this application lies in its simplicity. The main menu will display a timeline of your current day with a step counter at the very top (which will also tell you if you’ve beaten your previous record), and you can choose a specific day by selecting the drop down menu on the top left hand corner. There aren’t many settings to play around with, again focusing on simplicity is key here.

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If you want to share your timeline, simply choose from the list of available outputs on your phone (dependent on what other applications you have installed), and that’s it. Again, very simple and not much to it at all.

Overall:
I think the most important thing Moves has incorporated in their application that many others have yet to hit the nail on is the idea of a hands off approach; the less a user has to manually input, the more likely a user will continue to use it. The point of technology is to make our lives easier, and if you have to sit there every five minutes to input something then it really defeats the purpose. Moves only really requires you to input a location one time, and it will remember every time after you visit that location again; you can even input personal locations as well, so you can add places such as your home, or locations not listed on Foursquare.

I’ve personally used fitness applications like EndomondoNike+ (paired with the Nike Sportwatch GPS), and even the Jawbone Up, but although they have their own niche uses, they don’t compare in simplicity to Moves. I still use my Nike Sportwatch GPS when I go for a run, but other than that I only use Moves now (mostly because it’s already there on my phone and I don’t need to do anything with it).

Of course I know there are people out there who fear that they’re being tracked… My answer to that is, who cares? Unless you’re working for some sort of covert operation that requires you to be off the radar at all times, or if you’re running from the law (or spouse)… It really doesn’t matter. Who knows, it might even help you remember where you went before you blacked out while drinking the night before.

Final Thoughts:
A neat application that requires little effort to maintain, focusing on what’s important and leaving out what isn’t. Give it a try if you’re in the market for a tracker, but can’t be bothered to constantly input data yourself.

- Malffej

Sources: MovesMoves (Android), Moves (iOS)

Food Bites: Altitudes Bistro

Restaurant: Altitudes Bistro
Address: 6400 Nancy Greene Way; North Vancouver, BC V7R4K9
Telephone: 604-980-9311
Altitudes Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Located on Grouse, it’s the only place you can get food on the mountain other than the food court. It’s all right, but if you’re not starving and can wait until you get off the mountain, that may be in your best interest to do so.

Atmosphere:
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It’s a fancy looking bar on a mountain, there’s not too much to expect here. You get a nice view of the city (if you choose to sit by the right windows), and the decor is comparable to say… A Cactus Club (I feel like I’ve made Cactus Club references before; I guess it’s becoming a go-to reference for me now), but that’s pretty much it.

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Yerdua, Mada, and I were looking for a relaxing little area to ourselves after a good snowboarding session, so we grabbed a table near the back; like I said earlier, you have to pick the right window and have the right angle to get a great view, otherwise… There isn’t much to look at.

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The interior itself is quite dark, but there is more than sufficient lighting to brighten it up at night. There is plenty of seating, and expanded even further by their patio overlooking the gondola during the summer. There’s an emphasis on wood here, especially with one of the wall pieces being a cross section of a massive tree trunk hung up in an almost examination type fashion (I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very interested so I didn’t bother taking a look in detail as to what type of tree it was, or why it was up there… Or if there was any sort of significance at all).

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Servers are nice, but nothing spectacular; however I was slightly annoyed at our server in particular. When I first ordered a beer, she told me that I was eligible to enter a draw for a chance to win something that night, but took a good 15 minutes or so to bring me my drink and then said that they were drawing for the prize right then and there. Could have at least given me a ballot to fill out and enter the draw first if it was going to take 15 minutes to get my beer… Overall though she was nice, nothing really to complain about.

Food:
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There’s an assumption that when you go to a “bar” type restaurant, you’re going to end up with “bar food”… What does that even mean? I know what it implies (for those that don’t know, it generally means that it’ll be mediocre food that usually consists of burgers, fries, wings, etc.), but I don’t see why that has to be the case. It isn’t like “bar food” is less expensive, you’re usually still paying over $10 CAD for a meal; which is why there’s no excuse for a “bar” type restaurant to be serving mediocre food under the pretense that it’s considered “bar food”, and that in some aspect it’s okay… It isn’t.

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With that being said… The food at Altitudes… Is what people generally call… “Bar food”.

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Yerdua ordered a Falafel wrap with a salad and she said it was good, but she did also mention that she loves goat cheese and there was a healthy amount of it on her salad… Mada wasn’t very hungry so he only had an order of fries; nothing special.

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I ordered the Angus beef burger myself, and again… It was all right, but at $15.50 CAD for a burger it really should be more than just “all right”. There was no definitive feature of the burger, nothing that really jumps out and makes you say, “Man, this is a good burger”; in fact it almost tasted a little bland to me (this point is subjective based on one’s taste buds, so I’ll leave it at that). Fries were the same as what Mada ordered, nothing special, so nothing to say about the fried potato slices here.

Overall:
I know I’ve been saying some unfavourable things about Altitudes, but it needs to be said. For the record, it isn’t a horrible restaurant considering what it’s supposed to be (“bar food”), but what bugs me is the fact that it’s the only restaurant up on Grouse Mountain, and it should try and push the norm here. If people want a quick bite throughout the day while skiing or snowboarding, there’s the food court; but Altitudes should be something completely different… Yet it isn’t. The view is there, the location is there, even the staff is there. Yet there’s still something missing with the food, and at the price point that it’s at, I feel like the food should be doing more than just being mediocre.

Final Thoughts:
If you’re starving and the food court up on Grouse Mountain is already closed, it isn’t the worst place you can go to for food, but if you can curb your appetite until you get back down, I’d wait.

- Malffej