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Month: August 2013 Page 1 of 4

PHAT Deli

“Home of the original smoked meat sandwich. “
My first time at “Phat” was during my attempt at completing Vancouver Magazine’s 101 tastes to try, back in 1999. The list brought me here for their smoke meat sandwiches. Tonight I was back for the same and because of the Guru (gurucooking.ca). He is friends with the owner and when in Yaletown, likes to stop by on the off chance that he is in. Tonight was not the case, however we did stay to enjoy a solid late night snack. “Phat” is a refreshing change out of all the places to eat in Yaletown at 12pm. A little shop snuggled amongst the dingy and dark dive bars, and the restaurants that strike you as more of a club than a place to eat. Here the music was not volumous with a tud tud of its base, there are no techno coloured lights, or overly rowdy crowds. When you walk in it almost feels like there is a filter over the room. Like “Hudson” on “Instagram”. After your eyes adjust, you eventually realize that there is a deli slash sandwich shop hidden under all the sports memorabilia. Action posters, signed jerseys, strung up pennants, and flags in flight.They don’t hide their support for our Vancouver Canucks, legacies and all. However there was one Canadiens jersey hiding in the mix of white, blue, and green. Guess they wanted to acknowledge the Montreal in their Montreal smoke meat sandwiches?



Who remembers the 90’s and what P-H-A-T actually stands for? Back in my day it meant “Pretty hot an tempting”. Usually a adjective bestowed on a more voluptuous woman, but I guess their meats are pretty hot and tempting. 

The Guru says “Phat” has the best cold cuts in town. They were definitely the freshest I have ever tasted. Which is odd seeing as they are all flown in all the way from Montreal, which could be a day or two in travel. Cut on site, they get topped layer after layer to ensure each bite is the meatiest, and each one as meaty as the last, and like the one next to it. 

I went for their famous the “Montreal smoke meat sandwich”. A dish so popular it got it own section on the menu. Under its options are different variations in cheeses, sauces, and breads. I got the regular, it was made on a mixed rye bread with a hot Dijon mustard, with a kosher dill pickle on the side. Believe it our not, this was the skinny version. The “Phat” edition came so much larger that it warranted a $3 difference in price. The meat was light with a taste milder than I thought it would be. You would think that all this cured meat would be salty. However it was the mustard that was the dominating flavour, to the point that I needed to scrape some off on the side. 
I have been addicted to onion rings since my trip to Penticton, where I had the best ones at a stall on the beach. From hating their texture, to ordering them whenever I see them, and buying them frozen from the grocery store. So obviously half drunk, I had to have them now. And boy howdy at that time these were the most amazing onion rings ever. Beer goggles aside, these were ones most restaurants got from “GFS”. Mass battered, frozen, and then fried to order. 

The Guru had the “Beef dip on a baguette”, served with horseradish mayo, and au jus. Like the smoke meat sandwich, this too was filled evenly with delicate layers of meat. The mayo gave the crispy bread a kick of spice and the au jus made each bite a multi textured melding of meat and meat juices. 

You can get your meat on various platforms: bagels, buns, and breads. For ease, choose from predetermined great ingredient combinations. Or for a more hands on experience choose your own. Select your meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces; to make your own super “Phat” sandwich. And they do breakfasts too, because smoke meat is good all times of the day. 

We wanted a shot and left it up to our bartender to decide. She was the only one working front of house for us and the 5 other guests in the restaurant. For the most part everyone was quiet and engrossed in their own thing. She was chipper despite the day that stood behind her and the next day before her. She held conversations and made all her guests feel welcome. They returned her kindness with their continue seating and increased drinking. What she presented to us was what she liked, “Spice box”, a drink made with spiced whiskey with vanilla. I remembered not liking the taste, but not much more after that. 

Would I go back? – Yes. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. 
The atmosphere was chill, the staff approachable and the customers friendly. Known as a go to for the Canucks, you might see one when in season. The food was solid and sure to satisfy anyone’s meat-filled cravings. With enough to give a person some serious meat sweats. Plus if the Guru (gurucooking.ca) vouches for this place and is willing to revisit, you can be sure it is a quality establishment. Don’t deny your cravings 

PHAT
1055 Mainland Street, Vancouver BC
604-684-6239
phatdeli.com
PHAT on Urbanspoon

Society Dining Lounge

When you ask those who have been to “Society” what they think, most mention how the food is sub par, but get giddy over the cotton candied drinks. My first experience didn’t meet with those exact same feelings. I liked all that I had, but agree this would not be my number one go-to for dinner. Though it is a top 5 for after dinner cocktails. What is more fun that pulling sticky strands if glossy sugar from a mound of pink fluff? All in a setting that could make any girl feel like a princess. I remember my first time here, a past birthday celebration with all my closest friends. Here I was spell bounded by the two stunning pink chandeliers, a must have on many a girls’ wish list for their boudoir. Since then I have made this my girl’s night destination several times. And at each was made to feel precious and pretty as a princess. Something about the decor just does that to you. And I don’t think I was the only one who felt the effects. Looking around tonight, majority of tables inside and on the covered patio were large groups of women. 
On this particular evening we came only to drink, but were close to eating when tempted with a menu and a mention that everything on it would be 50% off. But coming from dinner we were too full to act in the thought. Despite the Asian in me really wanting to take advantage of the discounted deal. 

The menu is a listing if comfort foods. Childhood classics done with a grown up twist. Corn dogs made with lobster. The fusion of tacos and pizzas, with guacamole and corn tortilla chips. Cheese burger pizza pockets, with gherkins mustard and ketchup. And dishes for the kid in all of us: cola covered wings. There is not one dish on the menu without fun in mind. I enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed trying them in the past. More importantly, they have milkshakes! With real ice cream! Get them done regular in creamsicle or blueberry waffle flavour; for the kid in you. Or spiked in “Nutella”, “root beer float”, or “Malibu Barbie” with mango, pineapple and toasted coconut; for the adult that is you.  

 

Tonight we sat at the bar and I was able to order the “prettiest drink” directly from the bartender. He smirked at my odd request, but was up for the challenge. He was clever and presented to me an off the cuff, off the menu drink. He called it the “Piñacle”, a watermelon and mint martini. I even got to watch him made the cotton candy. Though it was a little unsettling that he wound the sugar floss around his bare hands. Hands that have probably caressed many sides of a dirty bar rag tonight. The drink was sweeter once I was instructed to stir up the coloured portion at the very bottom. Guess I was too tipsy to figure that one out alone. 

The following are dishes I have had in the past. A few are still on the menu, a few have been removed, and the majority have been updated and improved. 

These drinks once had large rounds of cotton candy resting on each rim. The instruction was the dunk them in the drink to add one’s desired sweetness to the mix. 

Perogies. Three hardly makes a dish, and proved difficult to split amongst four. Wished the server could have given us a heads up when we place the tapas order to share. 

Steak with seasonal vegetables. Didn’t like how the steak was cut into individual medallions. The vegetables were very standard. 

Seared tuna belly over Mac and cheese. An odd combination, no? The one dish that was eaten as two. Today it has transformed into a lobster Mac and cheese.

Poutine. Hand cut fries, cheese curds, and chicken gravy. A classic accompaniment to drinking. Very regular in looks and taste. If we wanted a spin we could have added pulled pork for a little extra. 

Then, a grilled cheese with aged cheddar and a side spinach salad. Now, grilled cheese with hand cut fries and a house made ketchup. The switch was a wise decision, you would never give a kid spinach with their grilled cheese. So why would you give that option to an adult?

Caesar salad. Large croutons, bacon, hand torn lettuce, grana padano, what they called amped up dressing, and lemon. I appreciated the overall thorough sauciness of each leaf. It was creamy with a little zing. 

Chocolate cake with a tuff of cotton candy for dessert. Rich smeary chocolate, a decadent bite that couldn’t be finished. There was not enough cotton candy. 

It dawned on me, mid way through the completion of this blog post. Maybe most don’t like the food, because its messes with the classics, childhood tastes you grew up eating. Flavours that were the same time and time again, were altered for the sake of change. When you take away the familiarity it becomes strange, different, weird, and maybe even off putting. I personally didn’t mind the food. It’s not the best, but it hardly warrants avoiding the restaurant for. I like trying new things and the mixing of contrasting flavour profiles can be enticing. I did once order a cheddar cheese quesadilla that was topped with a sweet berry compote for dessert. 


Would I go back? – Yes. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. 
I like the simple decor. I like their trademark pink chandeliers and their pink cotton candy drinks that match. It’s a girly place, a great space for a larger group of woman to assemble in. Eat fun food, drink fun drinks, play with your meal, and have a great time. Everything about this place wants you to think fun when you think “society”. And in my opinion, they do a good job. Sometimes you go to a place for its space and how you feel there. I suggest a try and it might lead you a buy. Don’t deny your cravings. 

 

SOCIETY
1257 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC
604-629-8800
glowbalgroup.com/society

Rodney’s Oyster House

Arriving at a bustling “Rodney’s Oyster House” at 6:18pm on a Tuesday, we were glad to have made reservations a head of time. We were early for our 6:30pm seating and were told firmly by the abrasive hostess our seats would not be ready any earlier, and that there were no seats for us to have a beer at the bar. Peering in it seemed to be the contrary with empty tables on their second level. None the less we stood outside on the sidewalk, waiting with the others who strolled in hoping for a seat too. 

The restaurant stands out as white boat in a sea of dark coloured boutiques and beauty salons. The exterior was purposefully made to look worn and weather beaten, with features that mimicked an actual dinghy. Rust coloured bricks and chipped white wooden planks. The door had a porthole. Buoys hung from their window box. It was filled with empty bleached oyster shells, thick knotted rope, a rusted propellor, a broken pulley, and dried driftwood. This nautical imagery was just missing an anchor. If we were in Florida this restaurant would be by the beach. Happy hour was called “low tide” and a listing by the door rattled off specials and their prices from 3-6pm. 

We were escorted to our upstairs table exactly at 6:30pm. Our tour took us past the live crab and lobster tanks, which was accompanied by a bucketed scale; the kind you would see at a fish monger’s stall. Walking up the iron stairs, having your feet touch on to the hardwood, and hearing the hollow stomps; it actually felt like you boarded a ship. 
The restaurant’s interior was kept as meticulous to the theme as it was on the outside. From the thick wood ceiling beams hung lobster cages and bomb-like buoys. Nets dangled off walls. And pictures and figures of ships, with multi tiered sail decorated the lofty space. It all had a homey warm out look and feel. Like the whole restaurant has been long travelled, and made a dozen trips on the high seas. We had a great view of everything, looking down from the upper deck. The kitchen was hidden directly below us. And the lower deck centred around the oyster bar and the three men was manned the counters. The stools were packed in tight and in each a dedicated body, immersed in the live oyster shucking show that was before them. The fresh oysters sat in heaps of crushed ice. Buckets were added to the display for interest. Each section and its type of oyster was labeled with a wooden plank, identifying its name and area of origin. An oyster’s taste is directly influenced by the waters it resides in. 

All the servers were young males. They had white aprons wrapped around their waists and wore cheeky tees that said, “Suck me off” or “Eat me raw”. For those who desired, these same sloganed t-shirts for themselves, they were available for purchase and showcased in a shadow box on the wall. According to my guest, the Guru (gurucooking.ca) most of the servers are struggling actors and artists. They have been known to do some weird things to entertain and stand out. On a past occasion the Guru had one server finish off his beer when he declined a top up. Tonight there was nothing like that. However we did bare witnessed to another server drop an empty drink bottle on a customer’s head. An attempt to rectify the situation was made with an offer for complimentary dessert. The customer however wanted his entire 6 person party’s bill to be covered by the house. It didn’t stick, though not without lack of dramatic trying. 

After placing our order our server snatched the menu out from the hands of my other guest. She just finished speaking her thought, and he whisked away the wooden board the paper menu was laminated to and rushed away. This is not the type of delicate service that I expect in Yaletown. It is definitely cultivated from the casual vibe of the restaurant and loud music that it plays. 

There were some decent sounding drinks, but the food we were about to have deserved beer. And we had glass after glass, to the point they couldn’t keep up with asking if we wanted more. The menu was simple, a listing of seafood available, without much of a description. There was a need to ask for clarification on many. 

Rye bread with soften butter, was our complimentary starter. I didn’t want to spoil my appetite on heavy carbs. 

We had to order oysters. Coming to an oyster bar and ordering the Tuesday mussel pasta special seemed sort of silly. A genuine attempt was made to explain what was called what and from where. We left the ordering to the Guru who attentively listen to our server explain that they had more east coast mussels in stock, than the ones from the west coast because of red tide. The platter of sauces were the first to arrive, five types of hot arranged from spicy to mild. Like the oysters I couldn’t keep up to know what was what. I was teary eyed with the spicest and tasted nothing from the mildest, so stuck with the one with shallots in the middle. The vodka spiked vinegar with garlic cloves soaking in the bottle was an excellent accompaniment. The novelty of adding alcohol to where it is normally not found is always enticing. There was also two types of Tabasco sauces and worcestershire for the using. We topped each oyster and sauce with a sprinkle if fresh shredded horseradish and a squeeze of lemon. I was impressed to be able to see and taste a difference in each oyster’s shell. It was a delicious start to our night. 


There was a consideration to order mussels, but from where we sat would could see a server behind the oyster bar, stir the white wine cream sauce that they came in. The Guru felt that it was too played out and over done, therefore not worthy of ordering. However the story would be different if it was in a fennel orange broth with real fennel and real oranges, like how he would have done it. 

We had order our other menu items along with the raw oysters, but ended up waiting over 24 minutes to get them. While the Guru enjoyed his smoked salmon that he requested after the oysters, right away. 
“Smoked salmon”. It was not smoked on the spot. The taste was light and the pieces thin. I prefer the frozen ones I get from grocery stores. There the red salmon comes in thick, even slices and the flavour pops with its equally strong scent. This platter before us also included cream cheese, pumpernickel bread, red onions, capers, and lemon. The traditional smoked salmon experience. This is the first time I tried pumpernickel bread and I didn’t like it. It was soft and grainy, with a taste I found uncomplimentary to the fish. Though nothing a more generous coating of cream cheese couldn’t cure. When done, what was left on the plate was half a head’s worth of cabbage and lettuce. It helped to beautify the plate, but as a rule of thumb, chefs say you never add a garnish you can’t eat. 

The crab cake and curried shrimp we ordered came on the same plate. To have less dishes to bus and wash? It was not like the two would be eaten in the same bite, or were necessarily complimentary. The strength of the curry overwhelmed the cakes. 
“Crab cakes”. These were thick discs of fluffy crab meat. Chewing left like you could taste each individual strand in your month. There was nothing really special about these. Breading is what makes the difference, and the ones on each cake fell short. My guest deemed these were mediocre at best, a real disappointment as she loves crab cakes. 
“Coco curry shrimp”. This was the most flavourful dish of the night. Each piece of shrimp was as large as the next. The curry was light despite its thick sauce. It didn’t taste like your regular curry. A zesty spoon of shrimps, peppers and white rice was the perfect bite. I would have wished to loose the side salad we refused to touch, and in its place double the portion of rice and the sauce that coated each grain. 

And to experience more oysters Rodney’s way, we enjoyed a round of “oyster shots”. Each shot glass was filled with tomato juice, horseradish, Tabasco, vodka, and an oyster ofcourse. They looked and tasted like mini Caesars, but stung more as they went down. On my first attempt I missed the oyster at the bottom, so spit my drink back into the shot glass to try again. Normally you throw it all down your throat, but I couldn’t get past not chewing the oyster first. The burn down my throat was from the vodka and the burn that spread to my lips was from the Tabasco. 


Would I come back? – Yes 
Would I recommend it? – Yes
I appreciated the intricacy of the decor. I appreciated the atmosphere cultivated by our surroundings, the staff and the music sounding. It was a great place to hang with friends. A place where you were able to be loud and rowdy, with reckless regard for the other tables around you. And most importantly I did enjoyed the food and the care put into its plating. There was much more on the menu worth trying. I would like to come back and be able to sit at the bar. Guests seated there are given a shucking showing, close up and personal. A truly unique eating experience worth waiting in line for, as these seats are not available for reserving. My return trip would involve drinks and raw oysters during “low tide”, with a side of their Tuesday lunch special: an authentic lobster roll. Hope you aren’t allergic to shellfish because you don’t want to deny your cravings on this one. 


RODNEY’S OYSTER HOUSE
1228 Hamilton St, Vancouver BC, V6B 2S8
604-609-9941
rohvan.com
Rodney's Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Las Margaritas

One of the most well known and regularly heard of Mexican restaurant in Vancouver. It is a restaurant that fills quickly, with a side patio that is buzzing on hot summer evenings, like today. We cleverly came in early for dinner, to avoid a lengthy wait without reservations. At 5:30pm we found free parking two blocks away and had our choice of a table inside or out.


The restaurant’s decor is the main ingredient to its fun atmosphere. Colours and patterns. Unique light fixtures and pictures on every wall. It is detail after detail that comes to together to set this place apart. 
The restaurant is separated from the dining room and bar by a wall with shuttered windows. On the back wall is their name and logo. While the others are covered with black and white framed photos of Mexican life, as depicted by its people. An abundance of moustaches and sombreros. Our wooden table was tiled in the centre. A pattern of royal blue, yellow, and white. 
Our server looked to be authentic and Mexican. I would not be surprised to find out that some of the photos on the wall were of his family. He and them only added to the authenticity and the excitement of our meal to come. 

We brought in an entertainment book coupon and were pleased to be able to use our “buy one entree coupon and get the second one free” for an appetizer and entree. 
Complimentary house made chips and salsa to start the meal and get the appetite going, are always welcomed. Crispy and not to greasy, the perfect partner to a rich and thick, easy to scoop salsa.

“Fiesta Platter”. A shareable plate for 3, a sampling of their customer’s favourite appetizers. I found the guacamole misleading. What should be an overflowing amount of guacamole in the ramekin turned out to be the a container with its bottom stuffed with lettuce. As a result I over indulged and left my guests with none. The Jalapeño poppers were evenly breaded and not too spicy in their round bites. The chicken wings were skinny and could have used more sauce and less time in the pan. Each bite dry and bland. The cheese quesadillas ended up being the best thing on the plate. They were the most simple and easiest to make.The chicken taquitos were crispy to a singe. They were much improved with the aid of either of the coloured dipping sauces. The mini chimis were deliciously stuffed with a smooth bean paste. Each bite full of contained flavour.

“Vegetarian burrito.” Stuffed generously with refried beans, mild New Mexico chilies, green peppers, pico de gallo salsa, olives, and three types of cheeses. Then baked and covered with a mild red sauce. Finished with a dollop of sour cream. All this was accompanied by Mexican rice and black beans, in case you were still hungry. Just looking at it, it didn’t look appetizing or vegetarian. When you think vegetarian you imagine leaves, and greens. Shredded lettuce on the bottom or cilantro on the side would have done wonders to perk up the bland looking plate. Flavour however was the complete opposite. Well seasoned with a mix of zesty ingredients. Though with its larger size, eventually it became to daunting to eat. One note, one taste. It was left half eaten. 

I was impressed that for the fajitas you could choose your protein as a combination. The options were grilled chicken breast, sirloin steak, or prawns. Our chicken and prawn fajitas came as a do it yourself presentation. The cast iron skillet was still sizzling with our chosen meat and seafood along side multicoloured peppers and onions. You grab a warm floor tortilla shell from the covered basket and fill each accordingly with sides like lettuce, refried beans, pico de gallo salsa, and guacamole. The meat was so well seasoned, that the cheese we didn’t bother to add on, would have done nothing for this. Great presentation, a dish perfect for sharing. 

After seeing it in a friend’s Facebook I finally got to try a “Bulldog” for myself. It’s an extra large margarita with a Corona turned upside downed in the centre. Two tastes that you wouldn’t think pair well does. And you essentially have two drinks for the escalated price of one. More a fun novelty than delicious drink. We ended the night with the murkiest red wine sangria we all have ever had and seen. It tasted better than it looked, and it was no different than it normal would be with a brighter colour. I suspect the tone is in the wine. 

Would I come back? – Yes. The atmosphere is fun, which makes it a great place for a girl’s night or a group gathering. The location is out of downtown and offers both metered and free parking, provided your willingness to take a walk. The food is always solid, I have never tried a plate I didn’t like. Though at those prices I can get more for less at a handful of other Mexican themed restaurants. 
Would I recommend it? Yes. For a fun night, at a place that takes reservations and accommodates for larger parties, this is a great choice. A four page menu insures each person gets their lettuce, tomato, beans, and meat just the way they like it. Wrapped up in what they like and coated with what they like. Don’t deny your cravings. 

LAS MARGARITAS
1999 W 4th Ave, Vancouver BC, V6J1M7
604-734-7117
lasmargaritas.com
Las Margaritas Mexican on Urbanspoon

Continental Seafood Restaurant

“White man’s guide to Chinese food”
I have written about dim sum places before, but what makes this post special is my guest. Usually I only have dim sum with Chinese relatives or Asian friends, but today was different. Today the Guru, a German born Canadian giant invited me out for dim sum. He is the mastermind behind gurucooking.ca, a highly skilled chef who has seen it all and tried it all. So the perfect party to consult with when writing for a food blog. 

This invitation started as an argument over the quality of the wok squid at “Sandbar”. He declared it the best, and I deemed it similar to the ones you get at dim sum. So now here I was dim sum-ing with a white man in Richmond. And here I decided to write this review in his perspective, a non Asian eating dim sum at a very traditional Chinese restaurant. I call this my, “White man’s guide to Chinese food”. 

Parking was maze with stalls labelled for 15minutes, 30minutes, and 1 hour. After a loop I found a regular one and reversed on in. 
Nothing special about the outside, except you could tell it was large. Definitely one of the largest Chinese seafood restaurants I have been in. Banquet sized and perfect for Chinese wedding receptions. At the far end was the stage. A step up on red velvet carpeting. The backdrop was the traditional dragon meets Phoenix centred by characters of good fortune. Everything was flashy in red and shiny in gold. Together they were the pinnacle of good fortune, wealth, luck, and longevity. On the stage was covered up instruments, unplugged stereos and a hodge podge of misplaced electrical equipment. It looked like they got too lazy to finish their clean up job. The Guru pointed out this was their karaoke stage. Cause of course we Asians love our karaoke. 
The only thing really out of place was the manager’s desk right at the front as you entered. It stood solid and adjacent to the bar, where finished meals were rung up. Overhead were crystal light fixtures. Piece by piece, together they shone gold and lit up in rainbows. There was also the questionable picture of the restaurant’s owner proudly posing in a picture with Stephen Harper. Questionable, with your position on politics. 
I have never thought to order alcoholic beverages at dim sum or in a Chinese restaurant, but the guru has. He found it odd that the only beer on tap here is a German warsteiner. This was a question worth asking, and one we failed to. 

The tables were nearly spaced in columns. It was all set up as part of a well oiled machine. The purpose was to be able to feed the hundreds that kept this place at capacity, and all in a speedy fashion. The guru has been here a handful of times and on each occasion insists he only gets seated in the “white section”. Two parallel columns that centred the room. He sighed that he never once got a window seat. 
Guru got there first and was already sipping tea as I sat. I asked him which one he had ordered. To which he replied, “They have options? They just put it on the table”. He also pointed out that the teapots always leak, no matter how you pour them. It is one of those things that just is and you never questioned. I explained it was made in China and therefore poor quality, but cheap and easy to replace. And low and behold, minutes later one of the staff dropped a bowl on to the carpeted floor and it broke in half. 

There were 3 mangers on shift, each distinguishable by the black suit they wore. The servers were in white shirts, black slacks, and an orange patterned button up vest. Together they were on their game. Bodies would hover, and as soon as you emptied a plate, a hand was reached out in front of your face, and off it went. They may not be courteous but they were efficient. Though we were a little put off to see improper glass handling when our waters were being refilled. Rims were being held and fingers were being dipped into water. 
Then it began. The ladies came around pushing their carts. It’s been a while since I was at a dim sum place that still used carts. Majority of the places have a list you check off and submit. This way they make your dishes as it is ordered and there is less waste. Guru said his dim sum experience is all about the carts and not understanding anything. And he wasn’t kidding. Shouts of “You want something?” was sent his way. They called out dish titles in Chinese and he shrugged. And those that came close enough, he asked to take a peak. A few cart pushers looked irritated that he got them to open doors and lift lids without taking out anything. But as soon as the words “har gow” and “siu mai” were uttered he perked up and got himself one of each. Mid way through the meal, the ladies started referring to me to translate for my guest. I refused for sake of this post. And the authenticity of it being a “White man’s guide to Chinese food”. 

Shrimp dumplings. A staple of any dim sum. Friendly for all. 

Pork dumplings. Another dim sum classic. 

BBQ pork buns. The dough was light and fluffy, you could tell these were made fresh and steamed to perfection. One bite they deflated. Each bun was coated in a sticky honey like sauce. It gave the bun a little sweetness and caused it to stick to the plates and our chopsticks. As usual I find there is never enough of a meat to pastry ratio. I ate what I wanted and discarded the rest. 

Spare ribs and squash in a black bean sauce. One of my favourites and new to the guru. He found them only ok and gelatinous in texture. 

Guru’s first chicken feet experience. He found the need for more of a sucking motion to eat the meat, than that of a biting one. He gave credit to the Chinese for using absolutely everything; saying that if you simmer anything in sauce long enough the actual taste goes away. Despite eating a pair of feet he said he would not order it again. He found it all too labour intensive, for something you don’t get much out of. 

Deep fried spicy squid. The reason that brought us here in the first place. On looks alone there was agreement in the similarity. But we more over agreed it was far greaser than the ones we had at “Sandbar”, that were better breaded and spicer. 

Abalone and shrimp dumpling. A new one for both of us. It looked different but tasted just like the shrimp dumplings, but with hints of cilantro. I picked through and was unable to find any of the claimed to be abalone. 

Egg tart. Another dish new to the guru. I only like the egg tarts that you get at dim sum. The crust is made from flaky pastry, and crumbles upon impact with your lips. It is light and delicate and marries well with the fluffiness of the egg filling. Where as the ones at the bakery have their crusts more closely resembling that of a pie. These were the right balance of sweet and savoury. 

Mango pudding. Something I like, and another thing the guru was willing to try. I find that mango pudding is great at cleansing your pallet with its light and refreshing taste. The guru however couldn’t get past the artificial mango taste. And he did try bite after bite. “If play dough made a mango tasting play dough this would be it. Like play dough it kept the shape of its mould well, a nice touch to presentation. He didn’t except my explanation that the evaporated milk poured on top acts as lubrication. “Why would your food need to be lubricated?”

Black sesame and coconut pudding. I wanted to try this one, but couldn’t eat four chunks of it. So as a solution, surprisingly, the server allowed me to take a picture; then another one after she lifted the Saran Wrap covering it. All this and no complaints, no huffy disposition. Then again Asians are known for taking pictures, and especially of food. She probably got that request once a day. And I was here one of the day. 

The guru found the receipt cryptic. He didn’t know what constituted as what size, and if he was even being charged correctly. There was no sense of amount and therefore no reassurance. “What did we get from the kitchen that was $8.80?”
When it comes time to pay, most think that this is a Chinese restaurant, they don’t give good service so you don’t have to tip more than 10%. When in reality you should be tipping Chinese places the most. Tip stands for “to insure prompt service”. And that is definitely what they provided for us today. 

Would I come back? – Yes. Not including the run down washrooms, the restaurant was clean and well kept. The food was good, the service was speedy, and the novelty of the carts were fun. Plus this was dim sum a it’s best, a food free for all. With no need to be polite, because there is always more around the corner. 
Would I recommend it? – If the guru thinks this is the best Chinese restaurant, and is willing to travel to Richmond for it; it is good enough to recommend. Don’t deny your cravings. 


I enjoyed writing this review. After all I have a hard time describing Chinese food and Chinese eating because it is all the same to me. I grew up on this cuisine and we didn’t call it Chinese food. It was called breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And the decor is all the same from one restaurant to another. It’s like the food for all Chinese restaurants came from one factory and the decorations another. So to be able to see it anew through another’s eye was delightful. This will definitely be something I do again. Dedicated to my good friend the guru at gurucooking.ca. 



CONTINENTAL SEAFOOD RESTAURANT 
#150-11700 Cambie Road, Richmond BC, V6X 1L5
604-278-6331
Continental Seafood Restaurant 幸運海鮮酒樓 on Urbanspoon

Umi Sushi Express

Rumor is that this fast food sushi stand is affiliated with “Sushi Garden”, the well known and well liked sushi chain across the street from Metrotown Centre. Apparently the owners wanted some presence in the mall, and this was their optimum solution. So today I was in Metrotown to see if “Umi Sushi” stacked up. And for those wanting to try it themselves, “Umi Sushi” is pretty much the go-to for Mall Sushi chains.

Their selection starts at sushi, but ends with noodles and lunch box specials. All rolls are buy one get one 50% off. What started as an end of night promotion to clear stock; is now an ongoing, at all times of the day special at “Umi”. A good way to entice customers to purchase more with the promise of saving. It sure lured me in.

The left showcase is containers stacked in rows. Each one housing a different sushi roll. Kudos to them, and their attempt to measure up against the bigger sushi chains; with a large array of rolls. You had the regular cucumber, tuna, dynamite, and California ones. But you also could choose from a dragon or a spider one too; made with avocado and yam purée, and soft shell crab. 

The showcase on the right housed the nigri pieces and traditional Japanese appetizers. There was “ebi sunomono salad” (a cold shrimp and noodle salad), edamame beans, and salad rolls with a dipping sauce. Then add on a bottled drinks for the perfect meal. 

“Dragon roll”. I could tell this roll was made not long ago, with the thin cuts of avocado still looking bright green with hints of yellow. Oxidation had yet to set in. This roll did nothing special to earn the title of dragon, it was just tempura-ed yam with avocado over rice. Disappointing still was the condition of the yam. It was mashed to a purée, which made it an unappealing texture to eat with the rice. 

“Tonkatsu roll”, pork roll with cabbage and teriyaki sauce. Not eating this right after it was made meant that the cabbage got soggy, and pushed its overwhelming flavour on to the other ingredients. Even removing the soggy mush of s cabbage leaf did nothing to improve the taste. The pork was flavourless and the sauce lacking. 

“Cheese roll”. A roll I only ordered for the rarity of seeing cheese on sushi. Especially seeing as Japanese cuisine traditionally does not use cheese in its cooking. This was nothing more that a Kraft single slice gingerly placed and torched over a California roll. The saltiness of the cheese was a welcomed additional to what I find, is the boring taste of a California roll. 


“Chicken Teriyaki roll”. There was plenty of chicken jammed into each roll, but each piece was too dry to enjoy. An easy remedy would have been the ample usage of teriyaki sauce. 

Over all, for a pre-made, take it and go sushi stall in a mall, it wasn’t half bad. But when you really compare the prices and consider the superior quality in a sit down restaurant your choice is clear. I would not be coming back. 
However I would be recommending it for the employees of the mall. A fairly descent meal at a discounted price. A good way to not spend all the money you are making in an hour. The food is passable and with enough options to keep your pallet interested lunch after lunch. 

UMI SUSHI EXPRESS
umisushiexpress.com

Metropolis, Metrotown
4700 Kingsway, Burnaby BC, V5H4M1
778-863-0622

UMI Sushi Express on Urbanspoon

Pacific Centre, Downtown
609 Granville St, Vancouver BC, V7Y1H4
604-633-9228

UMI Sushi Express on Urbanspoon

The Barking Parrot Bar

A road trip to the Okanagan during summer is a tradition that the boyfriend and I have been engaging in for three years now. And each time, after a four hour car ride our first stop is “Barking Parrot Bar”. A hotel bar attached to the lakeside resort in Penticton. Truth is there is nothing enjoyable about the service, nothing unique about the food, yet we find ourselves here year after year. And the only reason is the view. Nothing like a sunny summer patio right by the beautiful Okanagan Lake to make every interaction satisfactory and every bite tolerable. And today would be an extra special lunch, with festivities planned around the start of the well known Peach Festival. We were going to get to see the Snowbirds perform from our seats. The Snowbirds are a Canadian military air show. What they do can be considered air acrobatics done in planes. The squadron demonstrates skills and teamwork through highly dangerous stunts that involves them flying inches apart. A dangerous act and a treat to bare witness to. 

There is tonnes of room to accommodate plenty of seating, with booths and tables spread out far apart enough to give groups privacy in their conversations. But on a hot and sunny day like today everyone is in a good mood, and their voices loud is a reflection of that. 
We first grabbed seats by the bar, when we weren’t greeted at the door. Looking on to the patio, the chances of getting a table out there seemed impossible. So we migrated to one by the large glass windows, after 5 attempts at getting noticed by the bartender failed. 

The waitresses seemed busy in their coloured “Barking Parrot” tanks and laid back flip flops. Yet looking around, tables seemed unserviced and patrons seemed unattended to. We sure felt that way. 

We ended up grabbing the attention of a guy and were able to get the beers and the wings we wanted. The menu was a listing of the usuals in bar fare. Cheesy appetizers served in bamboo steamers and meaty burgers done with a wide range of condiments and vegetables. 

The wings were nothing special, but better than most with its crispy skin and juicy dressing. We ordered the honey garlic and BBQ flavours. And when I said yes to the ranch dipping sauce, it came for free and in doubles. 

I did however really enjoy the mint chocolate ice cream martini. When I read it was made with real ice cream, this was a no brainer, as something I had to order. It tasted exactly as expected. A luscious sip after creamy sip. I could have had a dozen of these. And the star done in chocolate drizzle was a nice touch. 


Would I come back? – Yes l expect a fourth annual revisit in 2014. 
Would I recommend it? – Only for the waterside view, that is only available on this patio. Don’t walk in expecting fast or attentive service. If you are lucky to find room on the patio, just sit and sip while you breathe in the country air, and feel the hot sun sizzle on your skin. 


BARKING PARROT BAR
21 Lakeshore Drive West, Penticon BC, V2A 7M5
250-493-9753
barkingparrot.com
The Barking Parrot on Urbanspoon

Terry’s, comfort food with attitude

Growing up in Vancouver, a fairly large metropolis; small town life always beguiled me. So when I spent a week in the Okanagan and was forced to slow down, it was a bit of a struggle. I learned to reassess things differently, as the country lifestyle is so different. This truly was the example of city mouse visiting county mouse. 
Here you don’t have the same emphasis on time, and restaurants don’t have the same emphasis on customer service. So naturally a review of a restaurant in Penticton would look a lot different from one in Vancouver. And it goes something like this…

When living in a small city, your dining out options are severely limited. You have one restaurant and it becomes the go to for several things. As is the case for “Terry’s”. What would be a hole in the wall in Vancouver, is not only the best family restaurant, but the restaurant known for the best breakfast, lunch, and French fries. 

Either way our local hosts strongly recommended it. So this is where we, along with half the locals and tourists in Penticton, were going to have breakfast today. The line was out the door and patrons turned away to avoid a lengthy wait. One such guest, who was clearly a tourist complained about the 1 hour long wait. Asking in frustration where should she and her family go instead. She was making a scene and all others around had places for her in mind. The owner was patient and offered to whip out the phone book to suggest her, her favourites. This is something unseen in Vancouver, an act of genuine kindness. Something you often miss out as you get swallowed up by the go go go of a big city. 

While loitering were reminded several times that we were next. To only get a table and have to wait some more. During the wait in hunger, our 4 man group concluded this restaurant was a refurbished old McDonald’s. It had trademark tiled floors, tell tale multicoloured table tops, and an uniquely shaped exterior that was classic 80’s McDonald’s. 
The restaurant felt cluttered with a lot of knick knacks that were neither here or there. A desk sized gum ball machine by the cash register, local hockey team posters signed and strung up, and an old timey tricycle propped up against the wall. I did like the tricycle, it had an extremely large front wheels. Which as a result, forces the driver to be situated high up. 

Each table came with the usual breakfast condiments, with a side of fake flowers in the vase. It got so hot in the summer that mini cool packs were needed to keep the tiny cups of milk that accompanied their free coffee, from spoiling. 

On this 35 degree Saturday it seemed like the whole city was in here waiting for food. The restaurant turned over all at once. And even though we got our table we still had to wait for our food. The wait became so long that we were to the point of ravenous by the time our plates landed. Everything was shovelled in without a word. Though I am sure the staff and kitchen were doing all that they could. With limited space, it was three cooks shoulder to shoulder churning out order after order. All their employees were probably working today too, so they were already performing at maximum productivity. And as hungry as we were and as long as we waited, we couldn’t complain. 

Bennies were available in both large and regular, with the doubling of poached eggs on English muffin for the large. Each came with a generous heap of potatoes in you choice of hash or Texas. 

 

Maple cinnamon French toast made with the thickest cuts of toast I have seen. As good as this was on first bite, it was one note and you eventually got bored of the taste. There was a need to rejuvenate the dish by adding strawberry jam and peanut butter, out of the available packets.

A classic breakfast with sausages, over easy eggs, potatoes, and toast. Juicy sausage that popped with flavour when you bite down. The potatoes were done half cooked so you got a bit of the raw starchy taste, the way I like them. 

The dishes were nothing really special. Home cooked classics done in big portions. Looking around no one else finished their plate. 

Would I come back? – No. Driving all the way to Penticton to have a breakfast that is considered average by Vancouver standards seems silly. However I would recommend trying it when you are in the area. There is a reason why “Terry’s” has won these awards in the past year and will keep winning in the years to come. If the locals line up to eat, you know you has a gem here. Don’t deny your cravings. 


TERRY’S
2156 Main St, Penticton BC
250-460-1299
Terry's on Urbanspoon

Beaucoup Bakery

I have been wanting to come back to “Beaucoup Bakery” ever since I passed by it on my last trip down Fir Street. The name alone is appealing and beckons you to enter. You immediately notice the fire engine red patio furniture outside, and their matching sign painted on the side of the building. A pop of colour in an otherwise boring block of parking lots. Today I invited my guest to join me for a quick bite. I was the first to arrive. Seeing how quickly things sold down, to ensure I got the pastries I had been eyeing, I went ahead and purchased them before she got there.
 
It was a fairly large shop, but very little room was dedicated to the seating and eating area. I was lucky to be able grab two seats at the narrow lacquered bar, closest to the entrance. Ensuring my guests are I would be sitting shoulder to shoulder, with the road as our view. Tiny tables and bar stools lined the walls, and each one was not left empty for long. Majority of the square footage went to the back of house, where their fresh on the day made breads and pastries were allowed to rise and cool. The vaulted ceilings gave the cafe some breathing room as the iron beams gave it structural support. It was a melding of industrial meets sweet. Cement floors and cumbersome and uncomfortable iron bar stools verses decorations that consisted of knitted pot holders and scalloped plates. Curvy and frilled antique trays, cups, tea pots, and bowls were displayed on the double rowed shelves. They beckoned to be looked at, but not to be touched.

Above the serving area were chalkboards that listed their specialty coffees and teas, advertised their loyalty card, and proudly gave a mention to all the local business they supported and sold the goods of. I thought it cute how hot chocolate was labeled as “Drinking chocolate.” Their loyalty program was so that members could
accumulate points and treat themselves. And all the businesses they aligned themselves with were ones that prided themselves on being natural and organic. A shelf to the left showcased these offerings. Majority were edibles like salt, maple syrup, jams and preserves. Others were housewares and apothecary like tea strainers and hand creams.
Their pastries and baked goods are laid out for you to choose with your eyes. Delicate desserts were in the refrigerated unit, “Apple tarts” and “Carmel eclairs”. Baskets of fluffy croissants were against the wall. They must be popular to come in not only plain; but cheese, butter, and chocolate as well. And fresh out of the oven treats were right on the counter top. I spotted pralines, cream puffs, and cookies made with lavender.Items to go get boxed up for transport. But when you dine in you pay for your food and bring your plates to your seats. A large jar of chilled water with cut up lemon slice is available. And like the milk and cream on the curio, it is self service. It is a little confusing as to where you drop off your used plates post dining. It was such a nice shop that we felt uncomfortable leaving a stack of 6 plates as we walked out. Instead we we were ask to hand it over the cash register. I felt bad having dirty napkins and crumbs hover in such close proximity to the plate of creamed cookies.

We started or meal with the only real savoury food item available, sandwiches. They either came in a their house made croissant or brioche bread, wrapped up in parchment all ready to go. We choose the “Duck prosciutto” with rillette mayo, oak lettuce, candied walnuts and apple; on two slices of brioche. Cutting in to it, it smelled bourbon-y. I figured it was the duck-ham, having never experience such a meat before. Despite the sandwich being premade the greens tasted fresh and were not the least bit wilted. It was tasty, but nothing crazy, hardly worth the $10 price tag it came with. Yes the prosciutto was rare, but there was not enough of it identified in the sandwich. The bread was the real star and available as a load for $8.

Large latte and a macchiato. I don’t often drink coffee, and am not a fan of the taste, but I appreciate the foam art. The milk and bubble heart was a sweet touch, especially when presented with a mug in their trademark red floral pattern.

As a transition from savoury to sweet we had the “Pear, walnut, blue cheese scroll” next. Spun like a cinnamon bun without the depth. And like a cinnamon bun the best part is the middle, it is the most moist and the most packed with flavour. The outer most edges were flaky with a hint of sweetness from the glaze. You could tell that this was a fresh pastry, the pieces didn’t flake off or crumble. The pairing of pear and cheese is always a winner, but when you add it the winning duo of apple and rosemary you take it to the next level. Two great combinations complimentary together, were solid as a quartet. A truly unique flavour profile, a fun spin on the classic sweet and savoury.

“Caramel Eclair”. A let down when compared to the traditional fluffy and doughy eclairs. The salted caramel cream inside was delightful, but caramel is better suited as a topping as a pose to a stuffing. In this case you can have too much of a good thing. Too much and too strong of a taste.


“Raspberry pistachio macaron frais”. By the looks on other food blogs and their website, this seems to be their trademark dessert, and rightfully so. Sprinkled with edible wild flowers and dusted with gold, this thing was beautiful. But stunning looks aside, it tasted amazing. It was not overly sweet despite its candy coated pink exterior. Glazed syrup-ed fruit, luscious cream, sumptuous jelly, and a crisp shell. The varieties of textures and the availability of layers made this a treat to eat.

“Black sesame religieuse.” Glad we ate this last. It was unbearably sweet, even having had shared it for two. Each puff was stuffed with a black sesame cream, and it came in two sizes. When looking around majority of those who ordered it only dared to finish just the smaller one. I did my best not to waste it, but it almost felt impossible to finish, as if I was punishing myself with a sugar over dose.

Would I come back? – Yes. This is a great place for a casual get together with a friend, or one to enjoy your own company at. There is no rush to clear out, it is quiet with the murmur of other tables, and the staff are friendly as they keep busy behind their counter. The cafe is clean and comforting to be in. A fellow happy guest mentioned the croissants here were the flakiest he has had. He confidently deemed them better than any at Tierry’s, or the other bakeries he has tried. So that alone is reason for my return, as I missed them on my first run.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. The desserts were photo quality beautiful. And they tasted as unique as they looked. “Beaucoup” is a great treat in general. Not to be missed. Don’t deny your cravings.


BEAUCOUP BAKERY
2150 Fir St, Vancouver BC, V6J 3B5
604-732-4222
beaucoupbakery.com

Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Well Tea

It has been a while since my last visit to “Well Tea”. This is a fairly well known bubble tea and Taiwanese style restaurant located in Richmond. Most self proclaimed bubble tea addicts have visited here at least once, or have heard of the place. Today I came with my guest for the sole reason of trying their milk tea hot pot. A weird dish she felt I could appreciate. And yes it is exactly what its title suggests it to be. I am willing to try the weird so that you don’t have to. 

The exterior of the restaurant is wrapped in a Saran-like plastic shield. It is made stylish with its white background, black Asian script, and green bamboo printed on. It is used to help keep the glare from sunlight out, while allowing those inside to still enjoy the view through the ceiling to floor windows. 

A detailed plant, bamboo, and stone water feature greets you as you enter. The staff stand behind the bar, and directs you to any available table. I joined my guest on the upper level; clomp clomp clomping on the hard wood. I really like the window boxes built into floors boards. Each is filled with sand and pebbles, and either decorated with bamboo or an Asian coin. I can’t be sure, but recall these being the home of some fish at one time. 

The space is fairly large and allows for the seating of tables with enough distance in between to be considered intimate. The cloth seats were plushy, and perfect for the continuous seating of their regulars. Bubble tea places are notoriously known as the ideal destination to grab and drink , sit, and talk with friends for hours on end. Along the back wall hung colourful pieces of art done in yellow, orange, baby blue, and red. They are cut outs of squares, patterns, and flowers; and resemble a window or a fence in the days of traditional China. This imagery went along nicely with the Mandarin ballads that played over head. The washrooms were at the back, pass the vending machines with cute toys and cellphone danglers waiting to be purchased. Inside it smelled like moth balls. Another very traditional China thing. 

What I couldn’t wrap my head around were the “Well Tea” T-shirts, available for sale in a boxed up acrylic. They are unique patterns, and looked decent enough. But I wouldn’t think to come here to purchase my wardrobe. Nor would I think to pick up clothing from a bubble tea retailer. 

Staff are pretty hands off. When you need them you let them know with a wave of your hand. They deliver your meal to your table without a word. And never check back until waved down again. They stood by the kitchen watching their tables for a sign of the need for assistance. And jump into action with the slightest motion. 

I had to get a drink when I saw their list of “Candy Slushs”. Crushed iced drinks made from your favourite chocolates like “Ferrero Rocher”, “Maltesers”, and “Kit Kat”. I choose the later and had no regrets. It tasted exactly like a drinkable “Kit Kat” bar. You got the taste in every sip, and with the chunks that were able to make their way through the thick straw. I wondered how much chocolate was in this. Counting the chunks I chewed and rounding up, I concluded it took an entire 4 slim stick “Kit Kat” bar to create this unique dessert. I was happy to end my drink, eating the full sticks once used as garnish. 
My guest got a “Passion fruit green tea” with no pearls. A pretty standard and commonly order drink at most bubble tea places. 

“Deep fried chicken nuggets”, the snack size portion. This is a staple in bubble tea cuisine. A great easy partner to your mug of bubble tea. Here it was only ok, we concluded this commonly found delight is better else where, like at “The One” (Insert link). Where other places offer these popular chicken nuggets in a variety of flavours, here they simply they left them to be original. 

My guest also ordered the “Spicy fish in clay pot” for her entree. This was an option off the seasonal set menu, offered on their seasonal insert. Immediately we noticed it wasn’t presented in the clay pot that was promised. The smell was overwhelming, a pungent and spicy mix of herbs and chilli that gave this dish it’s red hot colour and its fiery temperature. Floating around with the fish were bean sprouts, green onions, whole chillies, and pickled vegetables. The large bowl came with white rice and sides for a full meal. And they were rice noodles, broccoli florets, and a mix of carrots, cucumber, and peanuts. I gave this dish a try, but it was not really to my preference. My guest however liked her pick and ate all she could. 

And now for the point of my whole trip in to Richmond, the “Pearl milk hotpot with pork”. Each cast iron table top cauldron used for individual hot pots, sat above a square frame with a lit candle underneath.The candle’s job is to keep the pot hot throughout the entire meal. It lasted about the same time as when my food ran out. In the bowl was pork meat, cabbage, enoki mushroom, regular tofu, fried tofu, fish cake, and imitation crab meat. The several leaves of the vegetable that topped this bowl of soup gave it its undeniable flavour. The broth was sharp and hardy with the vegetable, and greasy and salty with the over cooked pork. You can’t really taste the sweetness that would normally be found in milk tea and tapioca pearls. Instead it just tasted like Chinese style soup made from boiled down bones. If you can get pass the oddity that is this flavour combination, it is actually quite the enjoyable novelty. And after clearing out all the big chunks of unfinished cabbage, an attempt was made to just enjoy the soup like a regular drink. Though I soon found out how impossible that would be. Many little pieces of cabbage had made it through the strainer and as a result added an unpleasant texture to drinking. It altered the taste and soured the what would be dessert drink. Shards of lettuce leaf in every sip. 


Would I go back? – Yes. It is a little far, but in order to try the other candy slushie flavours, or their newest lychee milk tea drink, a return trip is required. It is relatively easy drive with ample free parking in their lot out front. And with plenty of restaurant seating, avoiding a lengthy wait is possible. I like their menu selections and their offering of the bizarre. It is these unique dishes that get the people talking, and the same ones that will have others coming in to try for themselves. Would I recommend it? – No. the food is only sub par and not worth the trip out. There are a handful of bubble tea places offering the exact same that taste a lot better.


WELL TEA
4811 Hazelbridge Way, Richmond BC, V6X3K7
604-278-7268

welltea.ca
Well Tea 茶井 on Urbanspoon

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