Real, raw, & relatable me. Enthusiastic food & lifestyle blogger living in Vancouver, BC!

Category: all you can eat

Olive Garden, cheap eats

I have never been to Olive Garden prior to today. My own knowledge of the North American chain is based on what I have heard from others. So when my friend suggested that we check out their only BC location, in Langley; and that she is willing to drive us there, I had no reason not to give them a try.

Walking in, they are your generic Italian themed restaurant, mocked up to look like a house and home with curtains over windows, a mock balcony railing, creep greenery, and wood accents.

Their menu is pretty hefty, with a selection that promises to offer at least one thing your most pickiest diner would like. But we didn’t look through any of it. We were here on a mission, here to take advantage of the unlimited soup and breadsticks combo.

Having been before, my guest knew what to inquire over, when she didn’t see the $7.99 offer for unlimited bowls of any of their four varieties of in house made soups, and baked to order breadsticks. Although sadly the server had not known and mistakenly said that only the $14.99 combo of unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks exist now. And that we were probably referencing a promotion that only exists in the States, where “everything is cheaper”. So not knowing any better I order a soup, the salad, and a basket of breadsticks to share to start. Only to not like the salad (or any leafy salad for that matter), to not finish it and then be charged for it. Whereas my dining companion knew that she does not like their salad, so refrained from ordering it and stuck to a bowl of soup and our shared breadsticks. And lucky her, because advertised or not, any bowl of soup is $7.99, it comes with as many refills as you like. Or you can try any of the other three varieties of soup instead. And all the breadsticks are complimentary. So to summarize, she basically got what she wanted, despite the restaurant cleverly not recommending or advertising it on the menu.

The above made me upset, I only ordered the salad because I thought only the $14.99 deal existed, and I figured that I might as well maximize my order. One, to try it for the very first time. Two, to review it for this blog. And three, to maximize my monies worth. Although after a forkful, I felt like I did not. Here is the math: If $7.99 gets you as much soup as you want, and breadsticks are free, it means you are paying $7.00 for all the salad you want. And without any other options, you are only getting a giant bowl of shredded lettuce with a couple of tomato slices, a lot more red onion segments, a few olives, and a small handful of crouton cubes. The saving grace was the unlimited amount of mozzarella cheese you can have your server shred over your salad or soup. Basically your own personal shame is the only thing stopping you from enjoying a whole brick of cheese over top your otherwise unremarkable salad. In summary, the salad isn’t worth it and just go for the soup instead.

From my least to most enjoyed soup. The “Zuppa Toscana” was good, but compared to the others, it ended up being the one I liked the least. However, this spicy Italian sausage, kale and potato in a cream broth was my guest’s favourites soup. Enough so that she had it customized with more and larger leaves of kale, and stuck with only it throughout our dinner. Ending in 2 bowls cleared.

Once again, the second soup I liked the least is only in comparison to the flavours of all the other soups. I found the “Minestrone” with fresh vegetable, beans, and pasta in a light tomato sauce on the blander side. It drank thin and watery whereas I wanted a more rich soup, ideal for dipping the chewy breadsticks in.

Richness was what I got from the “Chicken and Gnocchi”. This was a creamy soup made from roasted chicken, Italian dumplings and spinach. It ate somewhat like a meal with the starch and amount of meat present. This was a great one to dip the warm and toasty breadsticks into.

However, my favourite soup was the “Pasta e Fagioli”, ironically only after I removed all the red and white beans from my servicing. Ironic, because the word Fagioli means, “bean”. Only then did the soup eat more like a runnier lasagna with quality ground beef, tender pasta rounds, and plenty of cheese I added on top.

The total of this meal came to under $30. A great deal of savings if you are only looking to drink yourself full. And as a bonus you get a lovely mint chocolate to end on, and can pack up any of the soup or breadsticks before you, that you don’t finish.

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant
20080 Langley Bypass, Langley City, BC V3A 9J7
(604) 514-3499

Damso, all you can eat pork belly

It is unheard of that a restaurant gives me a reason to visit them two times (almost 3) within a month. But here we are, and this is “Damso”. My original visit was actually to “Mr. Osmad”. My guest and I were looking for for an after lunch dessert, and found ourselves here; only due to its proximity to our original destination. But it is during this snack did we find another reason to come back.

“Mr. Osmad” and “Damso” share the same space and the same letters in their names, “Osmad” is simply “Damso” spelled backwards. You enter the former through the right and the latter through the left. Though if you use the wrong entrance you can still get from one end to the other without going back outside.

“Mr. Osmad” offers two main desserts and a handful of drinks to accompany the two. The first is “Bri’Hottok”, a type traditional Korean street food. The restaurant describes it being similar to a “buttery French brioche”. I didn’t see it or taste it that way. Instead I would describe it more like a cinnamon and sugar doughy hot pocket served piping hot. Each is made to order from a raw lump of dough.

The whole show is done before yours eyes, at their counter. One staff member sets to the above, squeezing out a round of pre-made of dough over a hot buttered pan. They do this using a metal stamp with a flat bottom. A series of squishes and flips is done using this paddle until each side is a crispy golden brown. It may not look like much, but with the first bite you know this is something special. I have never had anything like this. It was chewy and squishy, like mocchi dough surrounding a lake of cinnamon and sugar goodness within. Though sadly I couldn’t finish one round in one seating, as it does get a little too sweet mid way.

But it is the “Soufflé cheesecake” that has everyone coming through the doors. These too are made to order, or rather made every 30 minutes. And if you are lucky, you walk in at the right time for a fresh batch. We saw ourselves waiting 7 minutes for the timer and getting ourselves a whole cake (you can only order them as a whole, not by the slice, so bring a friend to help you finish). It delivers on the menu’s description of it being “Super addictive”. It is a light cotton-like cheese cake with a mild savoury flavour with the notes of cheese coming trough. It has an airy texture that still retains the creaminess of a cheese cake; melting from a spongy cake texture to an eggy pudding one. A texture like no other and one I would order again just for the mouth feel. However, it was disappointing that it didn’t shake and wiggle like the Japanese cheesecakes do. But it does let out a large puff of steam when you first cut into it.

It was as we waited for our made to order desserts that we noticed a poster in the corner advertising their two all you can eat options. The first, an all you can eat pork belly happy hour special; and the second, all you can eat Korean style chicken wings during reserve happy hour (in the evening, later at night). We immediately made plans to visit both. But unfortunately, upon writing this post, I have only tried the former: $17.99 all you can eat pork belly, available Monday to Friday between 4-6pm.

But first, there are rules. Everyone at your table must order this AYCE (all you can eat) combo and you all have 1.5 hours to eat your fill then leave. There are no doggy bags and you are penalized for everything you don’t finish. Leave one slice of pork belly behind and you are fined $5. Forgo the soup (that is included in the set) and you are charged an additional $10 for wasting food. And don’t be surprised when you notice a 15% gratuity fee automatically tacked on, no matter the size of your party.

However, even if you didn’t eat more than the initial serving, the $17.99 price per person set is still a deal. Ordering this special is pretty much like ordering several dishes on their menu at a flat rate. The “barbecue pork belly lettuce wrap” set, the “Korean miso stew”, and a bowl of rice on the side.

So having made our intentions known, we hunkered down on their large wooden tables and began eating to our heart’s content. Our goal to truly eat as much as we can and see how much we save in doing so. To watch the vlog version of this, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.


Not to ruin the conclusion of how much we manage to get through, what I will say is, on the first round, the pork belly is leaner and it does get a whole lot fattier the more you order. My belief is that, this is so that they can keep you eating less and their costs low. Let’s just say this is what got me in.



The “barbecue pork belly lettuce wrap” set includes ssamjang (sauce) and an onion salad, just like the AYCE combo does. And because it is all you can eat, you can order as much of the above as want. Also, as long as you eat 28oz of pork belly you are already ahead. The 14oz set will set you back $20 and the 28oz of pork belly, $30.

It was most refreshing to eat the slices of pork belly like this. The fattier cuts of meat do get dense and all the onions, jalapeños, spicy sauce, and lettuce help to brighten up the dish with some sourness and tang.

You also get unlimited servings of their “Korean miso stew” with beef, tofu, and potato in a dwenjang broth. It was a warming soup with heat from the cast iron pot it peculated in, and heat from the spices used. It was best used as a dip to soften up the tough and chewier pieces of pork belly. The meat was so tough that we joked that it was like we were having all you can eat pork chop instead. Luckily scissors were provided with our meal and the helped to cut down the thicker slabs down to bite sized morsels.

Overall, flavour wise this were impressively thick cut piece of pork. And the sides included, were well thought out and ideal in giving you many options in which to enjoy the fattier meat with. Tangy and sweet onion, crisp refreshing lettuce, spicy sour soup; and rice, the best base to carry it all.


Now calculating the value! At the end we figured we ate about 14oz worth of pork belly each, so are already saving already $2 each. This is because we got the entire set for only $17.99 for all you can eat, and it is regularly $19.99 each. Then you add in two servings of the miso soup at $15 each, and the 3 bowls of rice we shared at $2 a serving; and we saved $58 total. We saved $29 each going this route, having an happy hour dinner.


Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
A great two restaurants in one offering plenty of reasons to try them and return again after you do. Dessert or full meal they have options, and I like them enough to want to come back to try their all you can eat wings next, and then a few dishes off their regular menu after. Don’t deny your cravings.


770 Bute Street, Vancouver BC, V6G 2L9

Damso Modern Korean Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

La Belle Patate: all you can eat poutine

One of the city’s authentic Quebec style poutine spots: “La Belle Patate” is changing the fries with gravy and cheese game! They are doing this by being the first in the city to offer all you can eat poutine. And we Vancouverites say, it’s about time!

For $19.99 you get unlimited, regular sized servings of this Canadian classic. Fresh to order fries coated in their scratch made, rich and meaty brown gravy; and then topped with plenty of squeaky cheese curds.

And best of all you can choose from the traditional three ingredient assembly or one of eight options with various toppings. Heck, if you have the stomach for it, you can eat your way through the list.

1. Traditional poutine
2. Smoked meat poutine
3. Chicken poutine
4. Galvaude (chicken and peas) poutine
5. BBQ sauce poutine
6. BBQ chicken poutine
7. BBQ smoked meat poutine
8. BBQ Galvaude

So what better of an occasion, to take advantage of this offer, than after a night of drinking. My friend and I strolled in thinking we would eat our weight in fries, although was disappointed to learn that our bodies impose a limit on this tasty treat.

To watch the vlog of how it all went down, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. And hopefully it inspires you to eat all you can at “La Belle Patate”.


To learn more about this French Canadian restaurant, read my first visit post by clicking on the link below.

La Belle Patate

1215 Davie Street, Vancouver BC
La Belle Patate Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fatty Cow Seafood Hot Pot


During this dinner I learned that is is sometimes better to not make a reservation or come in earlier for it. They opened at 5pm, we walked through at 5:45pm. We were directed to an awkward table arrangement: one chair sandwiching a four top with a booth against the wall. As it is my preferred form of seating, I asked for a booth on the opposite side of the room instead. However was inform that the booths were reserved for four people parties. Facing that direction I was able to monitor their status during my meal; and what I concluded was that the servers had fed us a lie. I watched a table of three get seated in one booth, as they were no other awkwardly arranged three person tables left, and just a couple of two got sat at the one beside it. All because they came in literally minutes after us. We actually made a reservation, they simply walked in.

The service after the initial interaction wasn’t much better either. Our tea and water cups were left unfilled, and we were never checked in on for any signs of satisfaction. When we did manage to attract their attention for a refill, only the person asking had their cup was replenished. You would think they would do everyone else’s instinctively? At least to save some time and their own trouble?


And it only got worse and worse towards the end of the meal, when they prematurely bussed our table. My two guests were still eating, it’s all you can eat, they were doing the challenge justice. Taking their time, enjoying our stay. However the male server removes our sauces that were still in use. The sauces that basically gave everything it’s taste. The sauces that you only get one serving of and have to ration and share between your group members. We purposely scrounged what little we had to not have to pay $2-3 more for an additional serving. So naturally we were pretty devastated when we had it taken away in a huff. And when we I called it to his attention he literally rolled his eyes at us in judgment, almost to cut us off and say that we had enough. Where in reality we only ordered one round, we were no where near the maximum two hour stay, and I was the only one to tap out. No apology was given, I didn’t think he was even going to do anything about it, he was in such disbelief. Luckily one of the female servers overheard us and was quick to apologize on his behalf, simultaneously whacking the man on the arm for his careless mistake. He still didn’t seem to care much. She was the one to rushed a fresh full bowl of soya sauce back to us.


Upon reflection the man above was no better in serving us either. His explanation of their hot pot process was confusing. He said we had the ability to select the quantity in what we ordered, but wouldn’t actually have our request honoured. He suggested that we just ticked what we wanted and they would tell us how much we could have. Basically bringing things out and disregarding the sheet that asks you how much you want of each item. As confusing as this sounded, and given how little we actually ended up finishing, the reasoning did make sense. Though I would have preferred that they communicate better instead. That they just read our selection and mention to us that we have ordered too much, and that they suggest less. Doing that instead of leaving us feeling like we are missing things when we got three pieces instead of the ten we distinctively wrote down in pencil.


It’s $22 per person for all you can. A list of meat, seafood, vegetables, tofu, and noodles gives you over 70 raw items to boil up in your hot pot. You are required to pay for your soup base and have the option to add more extras in at an extra cost. It all seemed a little money hungry to me. You can’t have hot pot without the starting broth. And at $7.50, it seems steep for stock: meaty water that will be flavoured by the items we checked off and refilled with water when it boiled down. And the extras you had to pay for included some ingredients that were part of the all you can eat experience else where. And worst of all, as I mentioned earlier, additional sauces and a refill of what we were originally given came at an additional cost. The soy, garlic, and peanut sauce we didn’t have enough of and had to ration between three people. I wouldn’t be apposed to paying the fee, if I didn’t know other places offered sauces at no extra charge and allowed you to get as much or as little as you needed with no restrictions or hidden fees. These sauces were the only things really giving the food some seasoning, the broth cooked, but didn’t have enough in it to flavour.


So we splurged on a 50 cents dish of minced garlic to rectify this. And as a result were able to stave off paying more for sauce. Sauce that other places offer as self serve, all you can have, on a bar cart. Upon seeing us scrape garlic into the broth, our server made an attempt to stop us in our “mistake”. I believe the intention was to have the garlic like a side, an additional sauce. But my Ukrainian guest loves her garlic and he couldn’t stop her quick enough.


We also splurged by paying for two different flavours of broth. The Thai style “Tom yum Kong soup” and the “spare ribs broth”. There were four soups that came recommend with a thumbs up on the menu, and many more to choose from. Like a congee base, cilantro and preserved egg, peppercorn and pork stomach, and home style with a peanut sauce. Each cost the same $7.50. It was nice that both broths we ordered came with additional ingredients bobbling within its stock, though they were ingredients we could have ordered from the list of all we could eat anyways. In hind sight it didn’t makes much sense ordering two soup broths given that their flavouring doesn’t make much of a difference in the taste of each item boiled. Both the spicy and sour varieties of broth required flavour aides from the sauces. The two different soup bases get served in a split walled pot. This concept is great if you want to dine with someone who has dietary restrictions or doesn’t like to share their food or germs. Like someone who doesn’t eat seafood and therefore wants their own broth to fish from. But better yet just bring someone who eats meat and seafood, and doesn’t have any allergies. It is easier, as the service is communal and things do get mixed up.


The meal began with us checking off our first and only round. You wait for the broth to boil before adding in ingredients, and again before fishing them out. I am not quite sure how they arranged raw ingredients to plate. But a few came on their own separate plastic dishes, and others as a piece on a platter. From left to right, top to bottom: beef cubes, fresh oyster, vermicelli knots, tofu puff, and fish tofu. With the dace fish paste you scooped lumps in and they boiled up like meat balls. The baby cuttlefish came with head and tentacle on a dish shared with shrimps. They too came with their heads and antennae still attached on shell. Though were not worth having and having to peel, it was just too much work. The squid tentacles had to be eaten in one mouthful, as they were too hard to chew through and to take in two parts. Beef omasum was its stomach. We just wanted enough to try, yet they choose this to give us more of. The enoki mushrooms cost us $3.80 a plate. They are delicious and part of the all you can eat menu at other places.


All the vegetables came together: tomato, daikon, lotus root, bean curd stick, winter melon, and pumpkin. The bean vermicelli was separate.


Each of the meat option came thinly sliced, in it’s own dish, stacked one on top of another. My only concern was for hygiene, an interest in how clean the bottom of each plate was. But I guess any bacteria would be cooked in the boiling soup. Beef ribeye, beef sirloin, pork jowl, lamb slices, and fatty pork slices.


We ran out of room on our table so were set up with a side table to have the rest of our dishes sit on. All the balls came together: beef, pork, cuttlefish, squid, and fish. They looked smaller, half the size of ones at other places. The marinated beef was in sloppy chunks on its own plate.


The wonton, shui-Kau, and chive dumplings were on the same platter. “Wontons” are most commonly filled with ground pork and shrimp with a small amount of flour added as a binder. Sui Kau” is a dumpling filled with pork, shrimps and bamboo shoots wrapped in a pastry. And the chive dumplings included a mix of beef and pork. The plate also had on it mussels, corn cob segments, chikuwa; and more fish tofu, more tofu puffs, and more vermicelli knots. “Chikuwa” is fish paste formed into cylinders and left hollow in the middle. They looked like giant beads to be treaded and had a gummy texture that was enjoyable to chew through. The chicken slices, squid hanamaki, and basa fillet came all together in chunks on a plate.


We poured ingredients into broth at our discretion, cooking what we wanted, when and how much of it we wanted. One of the perks of having hot pot, is the control. Once cooked through we then, each used our own netted scoop to fish out what we wanted. Once again at our discretion, taking only what wanted and how much we wanted of it. When the liquid boiled down too low they simply added more water and you were able to continue. Like us, most people eat so much that they are left being too full to enjoy the broth. The soup is a mix of all that they had before, a rich stew of amalgamated flavours to sip on. I wonder if anyone has ever asked to take the leftover broth home? Cause technically you should be able to, you paid $7.50 for it and they will only pour it down the drain anyways.


During our stay I pitied my guest who was forced to claim the single chair on the non-booth side of the table. And more to see his attempt at avoiding the smoke from the boiling pot that fumed around him. It was a struggle he lost as he had his glasses steam up and the action of it feel like steam during a facial. But to prevent the fumes from penetrating his clothes and jacket too much a seat cover was placed over his chair and his jacket draped over it. This chair hood was to prevent the smell of all the cooking from absorbing into his and other’s clothes. It was a nice gesture, but he wished they would have asked his permission before doing it. They were abrupt and without warning, a pull at his back, and a surprising un-consented touch.

Like the clearing of the sauces, we once again felt like the staff prematurely cut us off. Ending our night early by bringing over desserts and the bill before we were all done. It felt like they were stopping a drunk after too many at a bar. She brought over a complimentary desert for each of us, with the bill; and without asking, she shut off our burner while she was at it. Then she and her colleagues began bussing the table around us, while we timidly nibble. Still clearly seen bringing food to mouth, and with back hunched, lurching over our bowls.


The square block of coconut pudding for dessert was at least refreshing. It was a nice, light way to end a heavy meal.


Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Colder weather brings about a craving for warmer food, and there is nothing more warming than sharing a hot pot with a friend or two. I just don’t recommend coming here for it. The food was only okay, made worse by the poor service and the lies we were told. Though it was the lack of sauces that took away from the experience and is the reason that I will not be coming back. Don’t deny your cravings.


5108 Victoria Drive, Vancouver BC, V5P 3V2
Fatty Cow Seafood Hot Pot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tibisti Grill aka Lebanese Cuisine


I admittedly am ignorant when it comes to geography, a fact that was pointed out by my partner, and one that I am trying to improve on though travel and trying new things. Which brings me to “Lebanese Cuisine” the Lebanese restaurant serving Lebanese cuisine, in case you have missed that. The name on the awning is “Lebanese Cuisine”, but online they are referred to as “Tibisti Grill”. I have limited experience in this cuisine type. This would be only my third time trying Lebanese food, and only the second Lebanese specialty restaurant I have visited.

According to Wikipedia, “Lebanese cuisine includes an abundance of starches, whole grain, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood… Fats are consumed sparingly and poultry is eaten more often than red meat. When red meat is eaten it is usually as lamb or goat’s meat. Cooking is done with copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, with lemon juice as a popular seasoning. Olive oil, herbs, garlic and lemon are typical flavours found in the Lebanese diet. It is similar to the diets of most Mediterranean countries”. It sounded delicious and I figured a buffet would be the best way to dabble in all of the above. Though they also offer an a la carte menu as well.

I found the name of the restaurant direct and to the point, much like the exterior and interior of the building. On the outside coloured posters depicted dishes served and listed their names in red. Maui ribs and roast lamb meals, souvlaki in beef or chicken, NY steak; wraps in chicken, beef, or lamb; and sides like baba ganoush, garlic sauce, hummus, tabbouleh, and baked potatoes.
“Baba ghanoush” is a dish of cooked eggplant mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil and various seasonings. “Tabbouleh” is a Arabian vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onion. It is seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.


Inside the restaurant it was just a seating area and a buffet line. There were no decorations, no need for art or for objects to fill up the space. They gave you only what you needed to enjoy a quick meal with. A clean restaurant, with sturdy furniture, and an assortment of pre-made dishes to help yourself to. The only thing I can say, is that with so much of its space left empty and un-used, it seems like the restaurant was designed and chosen with the possibility of expansion in mind. The back of the restaurant was cleverly hidden behind cubicle-like barriers; a freestanding wall separating seat from sight. They hid the unused space. Empty refrigeration units, empty racks, and permits to operate in sheet protectors. It wasn’t the most appealing view, but we only had to see it when we paid, and by that time it was too late to change our mind about staying for dinner.

Smaller buffets get a bad rep. The thinking is that less business means more food left over and more food going to waste. So to cut costs and to reduce waste they may either reuse leftovers or prepare smaller portions, meaning you are skeptical of how fresh things actually are. And then there is the understanding that buffet food will always be a little over cooked, as it is steeping in the heated dish. Though not every one is so particular about eating over cooked food. You really have to consider, what you are getting for the price you are paying. We were here for their lunch buffet, which gave less variety at $3 less per person, when compared to the dinner buffet. $11.95 for lunch, $14.99 per person for dinner.

All that some need is a cheap and easy lunch or dinner. Food available right away, a hassle free system; and good selection of meat, veggies, and carbs. So the question is do you tip? And how much do you tip for a buffet where you are literally doing some of the service leg work for yourself. I will let you all simmer on that one.

We went in with open minds, and the reassurance that if we didn’t like what we saw, we could easily walk out. Though once we were through the door, we were immediately greeted by the owner. He was most helpful and most convincing in why we should stay for lunch. We ended up taking a seat upon his suggestion. After hearing our want to check things out before committing, he took the time to give us a walking tour of the buffet. The owner was very friendly, and to him everything was “amazing”. There were no names to any of the trays, no list of ingredients under each tub, no way to ensure dietary restrictions would be met. But he did point to each one and list their main ingredients for us verbally. Luckily neither of us had any dietary restrictions to consider and can actually enjoy the assembly a buffet provides.


The buffet line was divided between cold and hot foods, appetizers and entrees. The former includes salads and spreads to start. A green salad, a Greek salad, dolmades, hummus, tzatziki, and a garlic butter to go with room temperature pitas.


The latter buffet trays were all yellow, orange, or brown. Roasted potatoes stewing in butter and herbs, yellow rice seasoned heavily in spices, meatballs in a tomato paste, sausages in a tomato sauce, chicken legs done two ways, and roasted lamb.


On their secondary line was a serving of fried chicken wings and mixed stewed vegetables. The rest of the trays were empty in anticipation of the larger dinner service line up. The vegetables were actually brought out after our first go at the line. I appreciated that despite it being late lunch, early afternoon, nothing looked too sold down. I mean they even put in the effort into preparing and offering up a new dish. And that it wasn’t just a top up.


As our plates were varied and was composed of a little of everything, I will be simply listing notes of the dishes tried.

The garlic butter was good, but would have been better on something crispy, instead of the available room temperature pita bread. I wish there was a way to warm the pitas up, they were hard and chewy, almost stale. Actually I wish they made the pitas from scratch, you could tell this was store bought. Although I still found them one of the better items when paired with tzatziki and hummus. Though the hummus was a little on the bland side. It was easily perked up by stirring in a scoop of the garlic butter adjacent.

I am not a big fans of Dolmades, the peppery leaves are not to my liking. And even if I unwrap them from the little bundles, the soggy paste-like filling isn’t any better. It was too tart and too acidic for me. “Dolmades” are delicate parcels made from grape leaves stuffed with long-grain rice, toasted pine nuts, fresh herbs and seasonings.


There were two different types of chicken, both dark meat and both only leg pieces. One was a spicy chilli, the other more like a mild bbq. You could tell them apart by the colour of the sauce and the presence of red flakes. I liked both for their juicy meat, that soaked up all the flavouring of the broth they sat in.


The lamb was hit or miss. A few pieces were fall off the bone tender like the owner promised. Others got too much heat, and as a result dried out. Luckily with a buffet, you don’t have to finish what you don’t like and get to go back for what you do. I passed on the dry pieces and fished around for the ones that were more tender.


The meat balls were actually more flattened meat patties. And like the sausage they were both just meat in tomato stew. They tasted as you expected them to: ground beef and spicy pork sausage.

Similarly, the Greek and garden vegetable salad was nothing special. Greek salad seasoned in olive oil and feta and garden salad dressed in a salty tangy vinaigrette


Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Overall the food was nothing unique, it tasted good, but nothing very memorable. The flavours were similar to Greek cuisine. We tried a little of everything and went back for seconds, so I will deem the price for the food worth what we paid. However I am not a fan of most buffets in general. I don’t like the presentation or the selection. I don’t like the service model and miss the excitement of seeing a dish set before me. Though here, at $14.99 for the the price of one entree, you are better off paying that price for the buffet, and to be able to try more for less. Also this buffet was missing a dessert component, where most do consider something sweet to end the meal on. Don’t deny your cravings.


Tibisti Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Uncle Willy’s Buffet


My guest wanted burger, fries, meat, and pies. So after driving around and not being able to pin down anything specific, we found ourselves in the most generic of places with the biggest of appetites. Though ironically, even though “Uncle Willy’s” is classified as American cuisine, it is owned and operated by a Chinese family; and their offering includes familiar Chinese dishes like spring rolls, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice. Though truthfully it is done in the heavily westernized food court versions.

Ask anyone and the response seems to be, “it’s been about 10 years since I have been here”. There doesn’t seem to be a large all you can eat scene in Vancouver so the Uncle seems to be your only choice. The challenge here was to eat all you could. Dinner over lunch offered a wider selection with an accompanying steeper price. At $13 per person I still viewed this cost with substantial savings over any entree at any popular casual chain.


You are greeted at the hostess booth where the expectation is to pay first. A wise process seeing as parties move about regularly and cheque skipping would be easy enough with the lack of interaction needed between staff and patrons. Though the one way in and one way out path set up by a walled partition does help in regulating things. A tip jar sat sadly empty by the register. Considering we were the last party in and the dinner rush had come and gone this was a sad showing.


We were handed a proof of purchase in the form of a receipt and green slip. On it was a series of rules and regulations, as well as standards kept. Clean plates and utensils used at each round. Managers have the ability to restrict service of certain items or unusually large sized portions. The necessity of supervising your own children. And maximum occupation of table is at 1 1/2 hours. We chose our table out of the many free and used our slip to claim its seats. Placed face up means your dinner is on going and faced down declares your completion of it.


The room was all pretty functional. No art, no distraction. Neatly arranged tables that faced the buffet line. The buffet began with tools needed. Grab a tray, equip yourself with utensils and napkins and walk down the line. Soups, salads, hot appetizers, stews, meats, and sides. No real flow or rhythm. The end is flanked by a station for meat cut off the slab. Here a staff member hovers, ready so should you want a carving. A secondary buffet table sits kitty corner. On it Chinese sides and American classics co mingle. Nothing really different from the main line. The restaurant is shaped like a “L”, comprised of two rooms. Two rooms meant maximum seating, one only in use during peak hours. The other space kept dark and empty when seating in the main dining room is sufficient. It is here that desserts are kept. Sweet squares and chilled slices come from closed off and cooled down showcases. You lift lids and open latches to pull out your desired treat. A portion already precut and redivided into smaller bowls. Soft serve ice cream and warm desserts were to its side. Spiced apples and tapioca pudding today, both left to burn and harden, unattended in the far corner. The soft serve ice cream is everyone’s favourite, from a machine you use yourself. You pull down the handle and gather as much of the cream you like. Pumps of chocolate and caramel are available for add ons. Or you can make any of the brownies, pies, or jello a la mode.


We grabbed our own set of cutlery and dish wear and heading down the line, savoury first. We were iffy about the cleaned plates and bowls still beading with water and streaked with condensation from steam. They were stacked high and placed face down on the spring loaded platform. Clearly a time reducing action, though one with the potential to do harm. Harm in the form of cultivating mold cultures, from the combination of moisture and humidity. This became more evident when the unidentified manager declared, “no pictures of the food miss”. I took his blanket statement to only refer to the buffet line. This stern declaration came from a man in sweatpants and a sweater. He wore no identification and made no mention of who he was. Though every now and then he would get up from his plate and his table, stop eating, and take a once over look at the hot table. He patrolled the trays and mixed the mounds as he felt needed it. The movement did help to remove any signs of congealed solids or tacky liquids.


The disabling of photography had me thinking. What were they hiding? In a day and age where social media is so prevalent. Each picture has the potential to translate into free advertisement, and spring board a business in a matter of seconds. Nothing spreads like word of month so hindering it, could only mean there was something they didn’t want seen. Maybe it was meant to hide their corner cutting practices and subpar food handling policies? Actions that they preferred to continue go unnoticed. I understand that certain processes need to be shortened in order to keep prices low, but at what cost? I have seen other buffets go the same way. It only takes one food poisoning incident and one claim of indigestion to shut a place down. It’s been a while since I have completed my food safe training, but I do recall some practices that were missed here. Dishes, bowls, spoons, and forks cleaned and left to air dry in tight stacks and covered bundles. Staff tending to the trays of food without hair nets. And slicing meat without gloves, only after bussing tables minutes before. I bore no witness to proper hand washing techniques. More trays than the radiating warmth of heat lamps could cover. Food left out in the open, uncovered and without a sneeze guards. Though those with said guards had them barely protecting the dishes below. Most unappealing was the wilted salad fixings sitting in half melted ice chips and pools of stagnant water, and worse still were the large servings of oxidized fruit sliced, next to it. Though I guess no one cares about salad or fruit when you can have fried chicken and ice cream.

The great thing about dining at all you can eat places is that your expectations are so low that when something is actually alright you think its pretty good; you get excited, and you get seconds. The following review will be a quick blurb on pros and cons. There is too much to cover and truthfully the quality of food does not deserve more time.


My strategy for getting the most out of a buffet is to go with what you like and don’t waste room on any fillers. Stay away from bread, rice, or pasta. Focus on that which would normally cost you more else where. And when reaching your peak, dip into lighter foods like corn or jello to rejuvenate your palette and help catch a second wind. More of appetite to eat more. Every buffet plate you scoop needs such a pallet refresher.

I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the food, but I got away with taking ones of my piled high plates.


Vegetable beef soup with frozen vegetables and pasta shells.


Perogies, cabbage roll, sliced sausage, French fries, spring rolls, salmon, and meat balls.


Cold macaroni salad in tomato shells, corn kernels, spaghetti and meat balls in marinara sauce, beef stew, vegetable curry over white rice, and perogies.


Green beans and mushroom, chicken thigh, fried chicken drum, fried rice, cheese gratin, cold orzo salad, and mashed potatoes with gravy.


Coleslaw, chilli, corn bread, fried chicken, salmon, and roasted potato.


Fried vegetable noodles, corn kernels, slices of beef, and a slice of ham.


Green jello laced with cabbage, apple pie self made a la mode, diabetic friendly vanilla pudding, spiced apple cobbler, cream puff, and chocolate and caramel topped soft serve ice cream.

Pros: Salmon surprisingly good, well seasoned and easily flaked. The spiced chicken was moist, and skin flavourful despite its burnt look. The fried chicken was tender, like the colonel done gone fried it himself. Flavourful spaghetti sauce and firm meat balls. Soft serve ice cream the best I have ever had. Desserts divided in pieces small enough to allow for multiple samples. Though as soon as we started to feel bad for being so surprised, we found enough cons to bring us back to reality.

The Cons: The sausages were the cheap processed kind sliced diagonally; it tasted like it. Soggy cabbage rolls with wilted wrappings. Spring rolls that you could only taste the grease they had been sitting in. The beef vegetable soup reminded me of servings from my primary school thanksgiving assemblies. Salad greens wilted in bowl and apples oxidized in heaps. Coleslaw drenched in mayonnaise. Corn kernels tasted like the can they came in. And carrot blocks left hard and uncooked, tasting of age and refrigeration. The fries had been left out and old, if it was McDonalds we would have waited for a fresh batch. The cuts of meat that were sliced upon request, were as dry as they looked. They sat as a stump on their individually stained cutting board. A heat lamp on each, only a couple of inches away. Majority of desserts were cold and tasteless. Those kept warm were overcooked and tasted burnt from their trays. There used to be sprinkles offered at the make your own sundae bar.


Yes I understand we came in later, expecting full dinner service an hour before they called “last call” on the buffet. Though had they given us such a warning on closing time when we entered, if hours of operations was posted on the door, and if someone came by so we could ask; maybe I wouldn’t be so harsh. But as a guest I feel that since I am paying the same fee at 8pm as the person dining at 6pm, should I not get the same quality of food regardless of time?


The staff are alert enough to notice your approach. They get in to positions speedily, and disperse when not needed. A server to claim your payment, others to man the buffet line, and more still to clean tables and cut meat. Though when needed none were found. No one was around to ask any questions, no one came to bus our table, and no one came to check in on how we were. Heck the staff that did pass by couldn’t even muster eye contact. Extroverted youths who were here for a paycheque. Seeing others leave and hearing last call on the buffet line we wanted to ask when they would be closing. I even contemplated dialing them from my seat to ask. Luckily the dessert bar was still available and I was content with just that. When we got up to go no one said a word. We were clearly the last ones still here, with our table the only one without its chairs upside down on it. Yet despite catching faces no one bothered to look up to say good bye or thank you. A cold and silent exit for us. Just as well, I decided not to tip on the service I did not receive nor on the welcome I did not feel. As I briefly mentioned earlier, if they were upset with us leaving later why not say something? Tell us when we came in that last call would be in an hour, 9pm on a Thursday. Have it posted by the entrance. Have staff bus our table and gently mention it in passing. If no effort was made and we did not know, how can they be mad at us for out staying our welcome? I guess as long as they had our money they were happy.

As a side note, not that I think this would be a vegetarian’s first choice, be warned nothing in trays are labeled with names, descriptions, or ingredients. Only mention is a showcase of diabetic desserts, warned only for those with the need. So those with allergies and dietary restrictions need stay away.

Would I come back? – No.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I am good on “Uncle Willy’s” for a long time to come. It’s like cheap Chinese takeout , you get that craving once a season and after a few mouthfuls remember why you don’t eat it more often. When it comes to consuming anything, my body is pretty tolerant, it handles weird combinations and cuisine that would leave others in an upset position. Though I think it is here that I need drawn the line. This muddled mix isn’t meant to be eaten on a regular bases, and the food offers not much in terms of nutritional value. It’s most popular clients are seniors looking for additional deals, teenagers on dates, and young families looking for a quick and easy dinner solution. It’s cheap and plentiful, satisfying all those who are famished on a budget. Coming in looking for more would leave you very disappointed. Set your standards very low to be pleasantly surprised. Don’t deny your cravings.

6411 Nelson Avenue, Burnaby BC, V5H4J9
Uncle Willy's Buffet on Urbanspoon

Kingsway Sushi

I am always skeptical of any all-you-can-eat places. The reputation is that the food would be sub par, with the restaurant using cheaper ingredients that taste no where near fresh. You get what you pay for and quantity, quality, and price are all linked. Something especially precarious when it involves raw seafood, as is the case today. If you want good quality meal in a generous portion, you make sacrifices in price. If you want to spend less and have more food, you lose out on quality. And if you want the best quality at a cheaper price you are lucky to walk away with a spoonful. So the thought is, such restaurants are losing out on the possibility of earning more money, because they are offering everything at a pre-negotiated flat rate; therefore the quality of food must be diminished in order to balance the costs. You walk in expecting a shrunken list of cucumber rolls and imitation crab meat.


Today I was invited to “Kingsway Sushi” as a guest and would never turn down a free meal, or the chance to walk away guilt-fully full.

On the corner of Kingsway and Boundary, I have passed it numerous times but never thought to go in. It is part of a shopping complex that includes a “Starbucks”coffee shoppe, a dentist, a lawyer, and a few other small independent businesses. Parking is available in their underground lot at cost, and requires a walk around to get to your destinations. “Kingsway Sushi” is an older looking building with a similarly stale inside decor to match. The foyer is a cluster of sun worn posters, slowly yellowing plants, and mismatched cushions on mismatched chairs. An assault of colours and patterns.


The restaurant was fairly large, with barricades and screens; the space was sectioned off allowing the flow of movement in one direction. Following the host we were led on a tour of the place, past the cloth doored washrooms, the several giant inflatable beer bottles and cans, the well lit and better stocked sushi bar, the wall sized Japanese paintings of nature and water, and rows upon rows of booths and tables. There were more than enough seats to allow all parties to be sat without reservations, or much wait if any. Large glass windows surrounded the room, it gave an elevated view of the busy streets below. We were seated in a booth by one and was colder because of it. Seats were hard wooden benches, only made slightly more comfortable with the flattened cushions available. Each a different floral pattern, like one would see at their grandmas house. They offered no support as I suspect they are well worn down by bodies sitting and eating as much as they can.


The rules are if one person wants to enjoy the all-you-can-eat menu, the whole table has to participate in the program as well. An action well placed to prevent the sharing of food and the loss of revenue for the restaurant. Our dining options came as a sheet to choose from. I was impressed with the variety, and annoyed by the smaller portions. The menu was a labyrinth of guessing. With names and no descriptions you couldn’t be sure you knew what you were getting, unless you asked. Though that is part of the charm of having all-you-can-eat, there is no consequence to ordering something to try and not liking it. You order things by the bite and order another if you don’t like the first. Here you call out your requests to the server who jots it down on his mobile device. Then you prepare as everything comes as one item on one dish. This created clutter and the need to constantly have our table bussed. Though I would have preferred the compilation and consolidation of all that we ordered. Things assembled into several dishes arranged by hot, cold, sushi, or deep fried. Though seeing as things are made to order by different chefs it may not be easily feasible.

Food came fast, though without a record you can’t be sure that you are getting all that you asked for, at the portions you intended. I am sure they limit you if they feel you have ordered to much, so no food is wasted anyways. And if you think about it you don’t actually eat as much as you intend waking in. With dishes coming in spurts you get full waiting for the next round to come. I am sure some parties don’t even consume the $23-25 they charge per head.

So much food came without an explanation. There was too much to eat and even more to remember. I cannot be sure what was what and what tasted like it was suppose to. It was a frenzy” of food and chopsticks at our table of four. It all came in and on mismatched plastic plates and bowls. I hate to think of all the dishes that needed washing and the quality of work that got it all done quick.

The following is a catalogue of all that we sampled. It was all pretty good and there was nothing I really disliked. With plenty of specials and unique twists on classics we were kept satisfied with variety, I was highly impressed. Green jello cubes on rolls, canned lychee in sushi, and rice cracker in place of real rice. Some real inventive sushi crafting here.


“Edamame”. A favourite finger food and a common starter.


“Seaweed salad”. A unique taste that is crisp and refreshing. I mostly enjoyed its rubbery texture.


“Agedashi tofu”. Deep fried to a crisp on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. Each cube sat in just the right amount of salty sauce.


“Ebi sunomon”. I never felt one piece of shrimp classified this as being anything more than noodles in a lemon broth. Tangy and tart it makes a great palette refresher.


“Gyoza” & “Honey mustard chicken”. The chicken was too heavily drizzled on with garlic mustard for my taste. It overwhelmed the meat and made it hard to eat, even after scrapping off all the excess sauce.


“Deep fried shrimp bomb” with a sweet chilli sauce. A great presentation with the bomb, the sauce was smeared to look like an explosion. I was impressed by the tying off of the dough with edible fibres. A cute stuffed full one bite.
Oyster motoyaki”, not made in the traditional oyster shell, this savoury pot looked like custard. The amount of processed cheese on top made things overly greasy, as the oyster sat saturated at the bottom of the tin foil cup.


“New York steak on skewer” & “Chicken brochette”. Both a little tough, each came well seasoned in its own individual flavour.


“BBQ chicken wings” & “Chicken Karaage”. Both types of chicken came a little too dry and therefore too chewy. And the Karaage was too salty to enjoy without rice.


“Beef tataki”, surprisingly very good once I got past the fact that the beef was raw. In thinly cut strips it was easy to chew down on. The sauce was a mild and played off the natural taste of the meat.


“Beef short rib”, a hit and miss depending on cut. The first order came out great with thick meaty pieces. The second saw more fat on each rib. It had so much gristle that we discarded the entire plate.


“Beef teriyaki” & “Chicken teriyaki”. Your standard Japanese fare. Heavy on the sauce, just the way I like it.


“Popcorn oyster”. Not my favourite. The texture was sandy and the seafood tasted off.


Fried smelt, crispy to the bone.


“Ika Karaage” & “Deep fried sole”. Overly fried, almost burnt that you can taste it. The sauce did help to lighten and alleviate most of the above mentioned issues.


“Yam tempura” and “Prawn tempura”. Their light colour made them look unappealing, but they tasted as expected. Just missed the usual dipping sauce.


“Tuna sashimi”, “Salmon sashimi” & “Spicy salmon sashimi”. Fairly fresh, impressed by the quality.


“Tai, hamachi, and Tako sushi”. More for look and not much in terms of taste. The octopus was very rubbery and the appearance of suctions on tentacles slightly off putting.


“Spicy scallop cone”. I usually don’t like cones. I find the rice to filling ratio off, with more of the former and not enough latter. This was the case here. Each cone was eaten with the empty tip unfinished.


“House roll”. Salmon, tuna, kani, avocado.


“Chicken teriyaki roll”, “Dynamite roll”, “Cheesy California roll” & “Crunchy roll”.


“Scallop pearl sundae”, “Lobster delight”, “XO sundae” & Smokey shrimp rice cracker”. Calling these sushi pieces “sundaes” confused us. By their names we figured they must be desserts. In reality the “sundae” referred to the mound of ingredients on top of each piece. A clever idea and a catchy name that had me curious. Surprisingly the unusual presence of lime jello, lychee fruit, rice cracker, and xo sauce did not throw off the taste. It gave things a little sweetness and a pop of eye catching colour. Great as a one of to try, but something I would never order as a six piece roll to finish.


“Mango pudding” & “Coconut pudding”. The must have end to a heavy meal. Light and fruity they wash the palette clean.

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I recommended it? – No.
The food was decent, the portions fair, and the value definitely there. As one of the only all you can eat Japanese restaurants in Burnaby you don’t have much other choice when wanting such fare. They keep the menu different and have no fear over being inventive. Offering a decent array of choice it is definitely worth a visit. Not the best, but a sliver better than most all-you-can-eat places. Good, but nothing special enough to remember or recommend. Don’t deny your cravings.

#110-3665 Kingsway, Vancouver BC, V5R 2P9
Kingsway Sushi 東壽司 on Urbanspoon

Toyama Japanese Restaurant

IMG_2054Do you do this? When you know you are planning to go for all you can eat in the evening, you starve yourself all day in order to be hungry, take advantage, and truly eat all that you can. Well that was me and my guest this Saturday night. “Toyama” is her favourite all you can eat sushi place. So it was the perfect start to our late girls night out. Walking in at 6:40pm there was a 15 minute wait for a table for two, despite there being enough seating to physically accommodate us. So instead of waiting we opted for the ready seats by the sushi bar. We were advised to grab two out of the three chairs in the corner, closest to the door. The only other options saw the continuous motion of the servers moving in and out to grab sushi orders as they were crafted and came up to the pass. 

IMG_2056This was far newer and cleaner than most sushi restaurants. Walking into the foyer the first thing you see is a beautifully painted cherry tree, blossomed in pink. The restaurant is fairly deep with tightly spaced togethered with tables. It almost feels like a food court with its open space and no booths or rooms. It is just an eating area over dark tiled floors, and with dark wooden tables and chairs. When looking up you can see that everything is black. The ceiling has been left untiled with the ventilation system visible, and only the support bars remaining. The speaker caps and air conditioning vents are painted in red. Silver tinsel is stung up and red paper lanterns hang down. I honestly prefer the design of the ceiling over the decor of the restaurant. There are two bars across from one another. One is for drinks the other for sushi. Behind the drinks bar sat two lucky cats side by side. They looked to be fat from the beers they were holding. In the corner there was a flat screen television, showcasing the best of “Much Vibe”. However hardcore rap and booty shakes really didn’t match the theme, even when muted. 

IMG_2058Being tucked a way into the corner we were soon forgotten and had to seek out our server, in order to place our requests. True to the all you can eat tradition the menu was extensive. Though beware of the fine print. It seems like a long sheet, with over 150 choices. But the reality is, it is all actually divided into three individual menus: “A”, “B”, and “C”. And if you choose just one option from the latter it automatically boosts up your price. It is a $3 difference from “A” to “B” and $5 from “B” to “C”. Had I known or had our server warned us I would have limited our meal to menu “A” for $19.95. With over 80 items to choose from there was no way we could grow bored, or be able try them all before getting completely stuffed. But alas my greed and need to try the unusual cost us. 

IMG_2055The “A” menu is divided into Soup and salad, Sashimi, Temaki cones, Nigiri sushi, Robata (BBQ), Maki sushi, Deep fried, Stir fry, Noodle, and desserts. “B” includes all the above with more rare sashimi, nigiri, and maki. Including the highly controversial shark fin sashimi. And “C” menu is your fancier items: wild salmon sashimi, red tuna sashimi, amaebi sashimi, BBQ black cod, hamachi sashimi, uni sushi (seasonal), and BBQ lamp chop. As well as a listing of specialty sushi rolls with exciting names. However without a description you weren’t sure what you were getting without asking your server first. Though with names like: totem, Seymour, Canucks, and Stanley how can you be led astray?

With tickets to a show at 8pm. We were on a deadline, and unable to sit and digest, in attempts to eat more. The quality was surprisingly much better than I expected, especially coming from an all you can eat place. Especially considering numerous souring experiences from mall sushi restaurants and unsatisfying menus from sushi chains. I will not be going over each of the morsels that we ordered; but know that we ate it all, and left rubbing our bellies in pain; all in the name of gluttony. 


Masago cone. Negitoro cone. Dynamite roll. Soft shell crab roll. The seaweed wrapped around each cone was hard to gnaw through, but other than that it all tasted how it should have and as we expected it would. 


One of each of the nigiri sushi from “B” menu, sans the shark fin. Tako. Saba. Ika. Tobiko. Unagi. Toro. Hamachi. Ikura. Amaebi. Mirugai. Considering this was the first that I have tried many of these seafoods, I have no comparison point. I can only say it all definitely tasted very fresh. 


Teriyaki chicken & Croquettes. The corn croquettes are my guest’s favourite dish. The one thing she must always have when she visits. And after a surprising first bite, I had to agree with her. Crispy outside, warm and gooey inside. It was savoury with the batter, but sweeten with the natural flavour of corn. Very original and something you don’t see anywhere else on a sushi menu. If I were by myself, I would not think to order this off the deep fried section. 


Beef skewered. Yakitori chicken. Beef short rib. Great flavours, but all over cooked. 


BBQ pork Korean style. Ika karrage (deep fried squid). The pork was chewy and the squid burnt. 


Spicy chicken wings. Spring rolls. Beef teriyaki. The chicken wings were very spicy with a heat that lingered soon after you spat the meat out. The spring rolls had more deep fried wrap than filling, and tasted as such. The beef teriyaki was tender with great flavours from ample sauces and sliced fried onions. 


Beef udon. Miso soup. Tasted as expected. 


Mango pudding. Tapioca pudding. The tapioca tasted like custard. There was also ice cream, but it came at an additional cost that we weren’t interested in paying. 

Server interaction is pretty minimal. You ask for a menu sheet and a pencil, you indicate the amount desired in each order by number, you submit the page, and your requested food comes trickling to your table in individual side plates and in soup bowls. 

Would I come back? – Yes. This was the best all you can eat I have ever had. The food was good, the sushi fresh, and the menu exciting. Given the appetite and time I would very much like to return to try more: octopus salad, beef tongue, fresh corn, octopus in garlic butter, seafood fried rice, fish fingers, and unagi tempura roll. Not to mention all the signature roll in their deluxe “C” menu. 
Would I recommend it? – Yes. Often you sacrifice either the quality or selection for the luxury of all you can eat. But at “Toyama” this is not the case. Enjoy a pitcher of beer and work your way through an extensive menu with a large group of friends, at $20 a head. Don’t deny your cravings. 

757 Seymour St, Vancouver BC, V6B 5J3
Toyama Japanese Restaurant 富山日本料理 on Urbanspoon

Maurya, Indian Cuisine

I came to work early for a conference call, but ended up having some minutes to spare before my shift; so decided to spend them at “Maurya”. I couldn’t remember the last time I had Indian food, let alone went to dine at an Indian restaurant. But I guess when you are going out with friends you don’t automatically think, “Oh let’s have some pints at that Indian bistro along with some curry”. So having the time and wanting to enjoy my own company I decided to make “Maurya” my lunch. Like most places lunch ends at 3pm, but for them dinner starts up right after, with no window for prep work in between. 

Today I decided to dine in, but they do encourage delivery and online take out orders with discounts and freebies. Like a free dessert with any $50 order. I went in already having decided on what to get. Only to be swayed by the lure of the all you can eat for $13.99 sandwich board outside. Why try 2-3 dishes for $55 when you can try them all for half the cost. (That is such a stereotypical Asian thing to do, one that I am not necessarily proud of.)

The restaurant was a lot nicer than I had guessed it to be. With thick rimmed windows and a patio of over grown plants out front, it is not easy getting a sneak peak in from the sidewalk. I now understood why they offered catering and banquets, the room sure could host it. It had a lovely old timey presence. Thanks to handsome wooden tables, stone tiled floors, a faux balcony with a lion stone head, gown length drapes that hung from the vaulted ceiling, and the largest urn of flowers as the room’s anchor point. The only real Indian decor piece was the large bronze Buddha carving on the wall. I was impressed. Not that I have been to many or any Indian restaurants, but I had an inkling this was one of the nicer ones. 

I didn’t know where to begin and sat until I confirmed with the server that I could just approach the buffet tables and heated troths. As good of a deal the all you could eat seemed to be I wasn’t convinced by the look of the stale food sitting in their metal trays. It was hour to lunch closing and I was the only one in this large restaurant, so surely this food wasn’t fresh. Instead I decided to open my wallet and order from the menu. It was pages and pages of unfamiliar food that sounded good on paper, but I was worried to try. One culture’s delicious may very well be another’s too much. And Indian cuisine is known for their heavy use of spices. 

My wait for food was punctuated with mellow ethnic music over head, coupled with Hindi rap from the radio in the kitchen, and the distracting chatter of the staff, in what I assume was Hindi or punjabi. At that wasn’t even the worse of the auditory assault. The sound of a vat’s worth of grease deep frying, what was probably my meal alarmed me. 

“Maurya Seafood Platter” with butter milk marinated prawns, fish, and scallops. All deep fried and served with Indian dip. I couldn’t tell which from what as it was all battered the same and gathered on a smaller plate in piles. At least it all tasted good. Though the sauce was the real highlight. I liked the addition of the pickled seasoned beats and greens to cut away some of the extra grease per bite. The pieces of seafood I am sure were all frozen and flash fried. I have only seen the tiny balls of scallops available as such in major grocery stores. Overall ok, but disappointing in both presentation and mouth salivating flavour. 

I was going to get the cliche Indian classic: butter chicken; but having seen it red with tomato sauce in the all you can eat trays, I figured this was not one I expected and had wanted. Instead I got the “Chicken Chettinad” that came highly recommended by my server. It is marinated chicken in a South Indian Chettinad paste of coconut and poppy seeds. A speciality served with rice and naan bread. This was so good that it won the 2009 Dine out Vancouver award. Sure my plate came with numerous elements but at over $20 for a curry with 7 pieces of chicken, the price came too steep. 
I didn’t find anything remarkably special to this. And surprisingly it was the steam vegetables that were the best part of the dish. They were saturated in butter and I could taste it in each oily bite. Yet I finished it happily. I didn’t bother with the salad. And the chicken would be dry and chewy had it not been lubricated by the orange colour sauce. I think the naan was home made and it was a good accompaniment to the curry for dipping into. 

Would I come back? – No. The food was just ok. Had the price matched the quality my answer may have been different. And despite the regal decor, the ambience was distracting and took away from the eating experience. I didn’t enjoy the singing from the chef or my forced eavesdropping of conversations between the staff. Plus I have never had to wait so long for a doggy bag. Not to mention I was the only customer in the whole restaurant. I just wanted to escape all the voices echoing in an empty hall. 
Would I recommend it? – No. I think this place use to be great at one time. All their awards and stickers advertising their past successes is evident of this. But without updating their menu or creating features to pull new customers in, this place has been forgotten. I hate to say it but I almost prefer the $7.99 plate of butter chicken from the food court. But truthfully how popular is curry and spicy foods on a hot summer Vancouver day? The proof was in the fact that theirs was the only empty patio on the block. But thankfully they had air conditioning inside. 

1643 West Broadway, Vancouver BC, V6J 1W9

Maurya Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon Instagram

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