Months ago, when I’d booked my flight to Vancouver, I knew that a couple of my close friends in London were also going to be in Vancouver at this time. We’d all grown up in Vancouver and somehow we all ended up in London. And when they heard that I’d be in Vancouver this Christmas-time, they both independently announced that surely we’d be heading to Shabusen for a meal together!

Shabusen? I knew the name but had never been. It’s a well-known all-you-can-eat Japanese chain in Vancouver though I’ve recently learned that all but this branch at Burrard have closed. It was at this downtown restaurant that we arranged to meet one lunchtime after Christmas. We checked boxes to order food, we ate the food that arrived, we gossiped – it was a fun lunch!

The only thing that was difficult to judge was how much food each order would contain. A portion of their tasty goma-ae, a sesame dressed spinach salad, was approximately a heaped tablespoon’s worth.

Goma-ae

Sashimi (limit of 8 pieces per person) were very generous slices of salmon and tuna.

Sashimi

Tempura could be ordered by the piece and a number of vegetables were available.

Tempura

Maki sushi and nigiri could be ordered by the piece. The ones with lettuce below are Alaska Roll (Vancouver has lots of unique rolls), which is a variant of the California Roll, with salmon in addition to the usual fillings.

Maki Sushi

Two pieces of chicken teriyaki turned out to be this: two whole cutlets, sliced up. We were expecting smaller pieces so these large ones surprised us!

Chicken Teriyaki

One of the best things that day was the yakiniku (Korean-style barbecue) and you can see the size of each portion of marinated meat we received to grill at our table. It’s not a proper Korean place, of course, so there’s no lettuce to wrap your meat but we were fine with it just as it is. Spicy pork is the best of the lot, followed by the beef!

A Shabusen Lunch

It really is a bargain here – only $15 per person for lunch for the AYCE including Korean barbecue option. It’s more expensive at dinner time but then there’s a longer menu from which to choose. Bookings are essential.

Shabusen Yakiniku House
202-755 Burrard St
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1X6
Canada

Shabusen Yakiniku House on Urbanspoon

Because they’re insane, my friends then suggested we head to a relatively new French patisserie that opened up just around the corner from Shabusen. Apparently, we needed to have dessert and the AYCE deal didn’t include any sweets at lunch time. Inside Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe, there was plenty of seating (though finding a free table proved to be challenging) and one could order any of their patisserie or viennoiserie to eat in with coffee or tea.

Inside Thierry

I tried a Tart Cafe Creme which was a coffee custard tart topped with a bit too much Chantilly cream and a thick coffee caramel round. Patisserie sizes are very Canadian (read: humongous) and we certainly struggled. Prices were reasonable though, with an average cost of $5-6 for a pastry (value for money is a desirable trait here).

Tart Cafe Creme

I was extremely surprised by the booziness of their Tiramisu; when they said that their sponge fingers were soaked with Kahlua, they really meant it!

Tiramisu

Portion sizes are certainly healthy here but the cakes we tried were just alright and perhaps a bit too sweet overall.

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe
1059 Alberni St
Vancouver, BC
Canada

Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe on Urbanspoon

I think Demel is classified as a Café-Konditorei – a patisserie with a café – and I don’t think there is one more grand in Vienna. Today, it still displays its title of Imperial and Royal Court Confectionery Bakery, it having supplied the Imperial palaces. Here, read this article about Demel written in the 1967 for Gourmet magazine. Fancy and exclusive! Now here’s a more recent article about the konditorei written for Saveur magazine – it explains how Demel had been purchased by a gourmet food company in 2002 and how the general riff-raff like us can now visit.

We visited on a Sunday at about brunch time and just managed to grab a table before the hoards of post-mass churchgoing Viennese descended upon the cafe. We sat upstairs, which I do recommend as one can choose one’s cakes in relative peace, without the crowds trying to order takeaway downstairs competing with you for space. There’s also more light upstairs.

Inside Demel

There’s a menu for all the drinks and savouries and some desserts but the real fun comes in choosing your cake from the displays. How can one choose?!

Cakes

Tortes

First, though, drinks: a hauskaffee (brewed coffee served with whipped cream) for me and a hot chocolate for Blai. The coffee was lovely (how can you go wrong with whipped cream?) and while Blai’s chocolate seemed very sweet at first, it started to grow on us.

Hauskaffee und Heisse Schokolade

We also ordered a savoury dish off the brunch menu: Würsteleierspeis’ mit Schwarzbrot, deliciously soft scrambled eggs cooked with sliced frankfurters, something I sought to recreate almost immediately back home. The dark brown bread was just like the kind I avoided as a child but that I now love, all chewy and nutty.

Würsteleierspeis’ / Schwarzbrot

Of course, this was the moment I was waiting for – time to choose our cakes! After a lot of hmm-ing and haw-ing, I settled for a slice Esterhazytorte, thin layers of hazelnut sponge sandwiched together with buttercream and topped with fondant. Blai had already chose his from a distance, the rather pink and flashy Elisabethschnitte, sweet strawberries embedded in light, fluffy strawberry mousse and coated in chocolate icing. They were both incredible.

Our Cakes

We returned to Demel the following day, Monday, our last day in Vienna, to try more of their confections. I was surprised to see just as many locals as tourists there on this weekday.

Einspänner und Heisse Schokolade

Again, something savoury first (having just cakes for brunch always seemed wrong to me!) – Frische Eierschwammerl auf Tagliatelle – sauteed fresh chanterelles with tagliatelle in a delicious white wine and cream sauce, ordered off a special menu. I had seen lots of chanterelles for sale at the Naschmarkt that weekend and they must’ve been in season.

Frische Eierschwammerl auf Tagliatelle

Then more sweets! Blai wanted to try their Sachertorte to see how it compared to that at the Sacher Café. The main difference seems to be in the number of layers of apricot jam – Demel’s had one while the Sacher Café’s had two. I certainly preferred that from the Sacher Café; more jam provides more moisture and their chocolate icing had a better flavour.

Sachertorte

I chose a slice of apfelstrudel with a side of vanillesauce, like a fantastic hot creme anglais. The strudel was chock full of apples, raisins and cinnamon and was gorgeous with the sauce. I only wish they hadn’t heated up my slice as the pastry had lost its crispness.

Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce

As with all of Vienna’s cafes, you’re welcome to stay and linger for as long as you require. I could have stayed the entire day! I couldn’t leave without a little souvenir and we took home a small marmorgugelhupf, possibly the best marbled butter cake I’ve ever had. Highly recommended.

Can you tell I absolutely adored Vienna?

Demel
K.U. K HOFZUCKERBÄCKER
CH. DEMEL’ S SÖHNE GmbH
Kohlmarkt 14
A-1010 Vienna