Monday, July 6, 2015

Birthday Genisys Burger at Red Robin (West End)

Click to add a blog post for Red Robin on Zomato If you sign up for Red Robin's eClub, you get a two-week window to enjoy a free Gourmet Burger. The fine print says "Participating Locations Only", and fortunately the Robson Street location participates. As soon as you walk in, there's a banner that says so.

What is not included are customized burgers, non-burgers (e.g., their sandwiches), and their Angus Beef "Red Robin's Finest" burgers.

Their current Terminator Genisys promotion, at about $1 more than their usual Gourmet Burgers, DOES qualify.

As Red Robin touts itself as the "Burger Authority" (as indicated in their colourful, child-proofed-by-lamination menus), I should really not cut them any slack on burger engineering and execution... so I won't.

Genisys Burger ($12.99) jalapeño-cornmeal bun, fresh avocado, roasted jalapeños, bacon, pepper-jack cheese, 100% beef burger patty, comes with unlimited fries (other unlimited substitutions available)
  • Patty check: Dry patty, slightly burnt. FAIL. They overcooked my patty. As the "burger authority" there should be stricter quality control on the essentials of a burger. Like the patty.
  • There was a tiny chip of bone in my patty. I'm going to call it a fluke this time.
  • The bun did in fact have bits of jalapeño. But no heat whatsoever.
  • The avocado slice was approximately in the middle of the burger. If you bit the wrong part, you got no avocado.
  • The roasted jalapeños were in two whole slices. Long enough to stick out of the burger, but not enough to cover the whole cross section. So if you don't eat this burger along the path of the roasted jalapeño, you might get no bites of it.
  • Definitely try a bite with the roasted jalapeño because there is only mild, slow-building heat but a certain amount of bitterness, which is off-putting with nothing to complement that flavour. Bitter is tricky to make tasty. You may want to take the roasted jalapeños right off, to be honest.
  • Overall, a rather boring burger and it definitely didn't make me think "Terminator" at all. Maybe a crunchy burger wrapped in silver foil might have done the trick.
Mint Brownie ($4.99, +$1 to make it "Monster" by adding a refill tin) Mint milkshake with brownie bits
  • More like bubble-gum style peppermint flavour. A bit weak and only average as mint milkshakes go.
  • Brownie portion in small cubes (slightly less than 1 cubic centimeter) of what looked more like cake, to be honest, but could very well have been brownie.
  • Came with a regular straw, which can't suck up the brownie chunks. Should have come with a bubble tea straw, or a deep spoon.
  • Overall, not worth it compared to Bottomless Beverages, which are in turn only worth it if you are staying a long time (e.g., a large party, so you are staying a long time) and likely to be able to drink more than one glass.
As my trip before to Red Robin, food is OK, but where the burger chain really shines is in portions for price -- unlimited sugar and other carbs are available if you want it, at no extra charge.
One extra order of their bottomless fries seemed to take forever to come, but when it did, it was piping hot and therefore, I am assuming, fresh.

Also, it appears they are willing to cut burgers in half. I saw this served but haven't tried asking for it myself. This could make it a really cheap night out combined with a birthday burger offer.

Why Opentable is actually a viable business

Despite even mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall restaurants having a website and e-mail address (and probably a Facebook account), probably the number one reason why OpenTable actually works as a business model is NOT by dangling the carrot of free dining cheques in front of users. That just encourages them with positive reinforcement to actually show up for their reservations.

Without having done any actual surveys, I suspect the number one reason OpenTable works is because a lot of restaurants are absolutely lousy with online reservations.
You can e-mail them using their online form or provided e-mail, and any number of these can happen:
  • You never get a response.
    • WTF?
  • You are lucky to get a response days later.
    • WTF?
  • You get a voicemail asking you to call them.
    • WTF? I E-MAILED you because I wanted to handle this ONLINE. Why do you bother having an e-mail address?
If you call the restaurant, especially a busy restaurant, you may have to deal with:
  • An answering machine and phone tag.
  • It's so noisy over there they can't hear you anyway.
  • A conversation that could have taken a fraction of the time had you done it online.
With OpenTable, you will probably still have to deal with the above if you have special information to convey (e.g., you're all a bunch of kosher vegans; your party is a soccer team of 10+ people). But at the very least, for even reasonably large groups of 6-8, you can know for sure whether you have a confirmed reservation or not.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Very filling meals at Cazba

Click to add a blog post for Cazba on Zomato
It's busy and with good reason: Price for portion is really good. In some ways, Cazba is like Chinese take-out noodles. You get some toppings on a ton of noodles. Except here, it's rice. For $12 or so you can be stuffed.

Not much of a patio in terms of view, but you can sit outside in an enclosed space if you like, with reasonable privacy from pedestrians.

Inside it's somewhat dim and OK. Nothing too special except for some interesting statuary and lamps, but they really didn't pretty up the space so much. Plus, there's so much server and diner traffic there's not that much they can do.

Fesenjoon ($11.99 +$1 for half garden salad / half rice) Stew made with Pomegranate , Walnuts and Chicken Served with Basmati Rice; vegetarian option (no chicken) possible at no extra charge
  • I went for the vegetarian option here.
  • Very sweet stew! Quite delicious though so sweet you do really want to temper it by mixing it into your rice. Even so, I really only needed less than half the stew provided as there was so much rice.
  • The menu indicates it costs $1 for a substitution. The server offered to change half or all the rice to salad, but did not mention price; I decided to go with it, and sure enough, it cost $1. Technically not a secret charge, but it would have been nice if she mentioned it.
    • Even though it costs $1, rice is heavier than salad, so I would seriously consider it, as even just the half portion of rice remaining made for a very filling meal.
  • Some people who tried some of my stew mentioned the walnut, but it didn't come through for me.
Tahdeeg ($6.99 Large) Crispy Rice served with your choice of Ghormeh Sabzi Stew or Gheymeh Stew; half-and-half of the stew is possible at no extra charge
  • Sounded interesting, but in the end... not so much. Neither stew really made a difference for me.
  • Crispy rice part looks like the slightly burnt stuff at the bottom of your rice booker.
  • Large portion can be a light to medium meal all on its own.
Doogh ($1.75 glass) Yogurt and water with mint, salt, and pepper. Bottled version may be carbonated.
  • Reminded me of the ayran I had at Anatolia Express but not as salty/sour.
  • Strangely, it grows on you though it might initially be horrible.
  • There's mint? Pepper?
Persian Tea ($?)
  • Apparently they do not have barley sugar, which the Persians in our group insisted was necessary for proper Persian Tea.
They don't take reservations, but if you have a large group you can arrive early and ask for them to accommodate you. What they will probably do is start blocking off sections where they will seat people last, so your party can sit together. If they run out of other seating, they'll have to take unused tables and seats from "your section" if all your guests haven't arrived.

We had a large party and a thankfully patient server. With over 20 people, some water requests got lost, but I think otherwise things went fairly smoothly. Large-group auto gratuity was only the standard 15% instead of the more common 18%.