Review: Kaya Bistro with YVRFoodies, January 2016

Like I did with a previous meetup at East is East on West Broadway, I had a great time with the YVRFoodies meetup group. Ricky Shetty was again a great organizer and host.

I had to arrive late, so I missed out on a course or two. But I can report that the seafood bouillabaisse was terrific. I’m sometimes skeptical of Malaysian food, as it can be very sweet, but Kaya tones down this aspect. The texture, the flavours, the combinations–I can’t remember a seafood soup I have enjoyed as much as that one.

My food photography rarely does the food justice, but I’ll give it a try again. There’s an exquisite coconut-milk base here.


I noticed Kaya was very respectful and helpful with the various dietary restrictions that my fellow diners had.

Apart from the lovely food, we had a great evening hearing from several presenters. Again, I think I may have missed someone, so I’ll just report those I heard from.

Teen Across Canada: Teenager Anastasia and her mom and dad are in the midst of a cross-Canada trip. Much of the trip has centered around food, and not surprising to me, the Maritimes including Newfoundland have provided star memories for both food and friendliness.  Read more about their adventures here at

Hot Arusha (aka Iqbal Ishani): What a cool guy (to mix temperatures). Iqbal is a great drummer too, and he got us moving in between courses. He also wants to preserve the culinary heritage of his family with these wonderful hot sauces (most of which are not that hot, but very flavorful and savory). I particularly loved the garlic one, which I tried a few days later. Iqbal was born in Nairobi of Indian parents. His website is

Feeding the 5K (with Elaine Cheng): We know a huge amount of food is wasted every year. It could make you cry to think of it. Elaine sets up a dinner that feeds thousands where all of the food would otherwise have been discarded. Read more at

Theresa Nicassio, Ph.D (Yum Food for Living): Theresa is a psychotherapist who focuses on eating issues and disorders. At dinner we discussed having daughters who had adopted a vegan or vegetarian diet as preteens. Theresa supported her daughter in this choice, and when Theresa later found she had celiac disease, she also had to make her diet gluten-free. But rather than be limited by these restrictions, Theresa has used them to focus on creating a terrific cookbook suitable for anyone, but completely vegan and with substitutions that allow each recipe to be gluten-free. This cookbook is available at It’s gorgeous with delicious-sounding recipes and I am going to try it out this weekend. Theresa also talked about emotional eating, and how it is universal and should not be a source of self-denigration. But she also suggested looking at other ways of achieving satisfaction, such as through music, art, play, and so forth.

Thanks again, Ricky Shetty, who did a great job coordinating the speakers, the music, and encouraging us all as bloggers. We had a wonderful time!



Review: The MotherF**ker with the Hat, Firehall until Jan. 30

Starting with the title, this play is upfront, immediate, and in your face. It’s very much a play about New Yorkers, several of them Puerto Ricans. It’s not about Wall Street, but about a small-time drug dealer, Jackie, who has just gotten out of prison and is trying to stay sober, get a job, and get on with his girlfriend.

Buy tickets:

The care and attention paid to the set really enhanced the show. Off to the side, a drummer plays. Drums are central to Puerto Rican music and dance (catch local musician and musicologist Sal Ferraras if you possibly can sometime) and this extra touch really enhances the feel of the play.

My fellow attendee and I were trying to figure out the time period in which the play is set. The musical references are 1970s, but the hair is 1980s. This was a time before rampant gentrification in New York for sure. The graffiti on the set reminded me of street art I saw in Bushwick last summer.


An almost offhand reference to Tony Orlando’s music dredged up a memory from the past. I remembered his heartwarming song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”, from my childhood, so I looked it up. Somehow as a child, I had missed the fact that the song is about someone returning to his girlfriend after being in prison three years, a storyline that echoes the play, as Jackie is returning home after being in prison for 26 months upstate.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Jackie starts the play with a triumph, as he has just landed a job, and brings gifts to Veronica to celebrate. Things quickly sour when he sees an unknown man’s hat on the table. Matters escalate from there.

The play, to a large extent, is about Alcoholics Anonymous. Ralph is Jackie’s sleazy sponsor, who has years of sobriety but uses his clarity of mind to hurt others. Jackie loves his sponsor as a personal hero. In a clip I found online, though, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is clear that he is not attacking AA itself, which he believes to have saved the lives of many.

The play is breathtakingly funny thoughout, even if you feel a bit guilty for laughing at times.  Campy cousin Julio is alternately wise and ridiculous. Jackie’s girlfriend Veronica has striking moments of clearness while struggling with addiction. Ralph’s wife Victoria is beaten down, but remembers who she should be. Jackie is impulsive, but he has a clear sense of moral direction despite the life he has led. Ralph is the type of sleazy guy who can command loyalty and always surprises outsiders when they see that.

Stephen Lobo and Francisco Trujillo, credit Emily Cooper.jpg

(Stephen Logo as Jackie, and Francisco Trujillo as Julio. Photo credit: Emily Cooper)

All of the characters are struggling with addiction and how to make a life apart from addiction. Hope never dies, although the future may not look too rosy.

This play is described as a “verbal cage match”, and the pace never flags. It’s an intense 100 minutes. But I expect this might be the most riveting play I see this year, and it’s only January.

(Cover image photo credit: Dan Rizzuto)

Firehall Arts Centre 2016 begins with some harsh realities – The MotherF**ker with a Hat, and Huff

The Firehall has had some hard-hitting drama productions in the past few years. The recent “Social Studies” looked at the impact of bringing a war refugee in to live with a Canadian family. “God and the Indian” was an unsparing look at Aboriginal trauma resulting from residential schools, and the well-positioned people who created and enabled this trauma. Firehall is located in the midst of the Downtown East Side, and I’ve always appreciated how Firehall works with this milieu to reflect community concerns and realities (another example was “maladjusted”, which was packed by locals when I attended a few years ago).

So it’s fitting that the first two productions of 2016 continue this realistic approach. “The MotherF**ker with the Hat” looks at what happens to a recovering addict after he leaves prison, and it will not pull any punches. I’m looking forward to seeing this show next week. “The MotherF**ker with the Hat” starts with previews on January 16, 17, 19, and a matinee on January 20, before the opening on January 20 at 8 PM and continuing until January 30. You can see the cast in the picture below. Read more and buy tickets!


(Photo credit: Dan Rizzuto)

“Huff”, which is coming up at Firehall February 2-6, is a story of “solvent sniffing, suicide and sex abuse” (as described by CBC). Written by the Cree playwright Cliff Cardinal, it looks at the bleakness faced by children after their mother’s suicide. Find out more on the Firehall site.