I've been working a lot lately. Working a lot means not having a lot of time to plan, shop for, cook, and experiment with recipes, which in turn means relying on the plethora of restaurants in and around the office in Yaletown. Tough life, I know.
Apart from the obvious hit to the bank balance, eating out has become a small source of frustration for me. As well as avoiding meat, I'm trying to keep my wheat intake to a minimum. I won't commit to saying I have an allergy, but what is clear is that my body doesn't like wheat, responding with rashes on my arms and face that last for a couple of hours, stomach pain and headaches, and at the worst, shortness of breath. I never used to react this way, and I still forget sometimes (usually when I'm hungry and options are limited). I've been told that I should keep a little bit of wheat in my diet because the less I have, the more intolerant I'll become, and the more severe the reactions will get. So, it's not off the plate entirely, but suddenly I'm scouring menus for the wheat-and-meat-free options. As a colleague said at lunch a week or so ago, "I'll have the ..., hold the fun". There's only so much salad a girl can eat, you know?
Which is why I am delighted, thrilled even, to have paid my first visit to Paul Stirfry on Nelson between Seymour and Richards (borderline Yaletown, but I'll take it). A sort of takeaway / noodle bar / pho house as imagined by a caffeinated graphic designer, my first impression was that it was trying a bit hard... then I had lunch, and I understood - a place with food this good has to look the part.
The menu is chock full of cleverly named pan-asian plates, including a highly customisable Build Your Own suite of options. Items are clearly marked GF and V (very handy!). The Red Head (spicy veggie stirfry) caught my eye, and was in front of me (with tofu and quinoa) within five minutes. My five colleagues were served in similar fast, friendly fashion, and apart from a very generous serving of Pho broth, bowls were clean all around almost as quickly.
Similar in approach to Wagamama in the UK, the emphasis is on fresh, flavourful, and healthy ingredients. The open kitchen behind the order counter was full of happy, busy staff, and within the hour we were there, around 15 people came and went with eat-in and take-away options. Everything smelled, looked and tasted wonderful, and for the first time in at least a few weeks, I didn't have to substitute / enquire about the ingredients in my lunch. I had to stop myself going back for dinner... but I will be returning to try every possible combination - definitely my new favourite eatery!
One question ... who the hell is Paul?