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Category: BBQ Page 1 of 3

Railtown Cafe, Tailgate BBQ series

This summer “Railtown Cafe” is bringing back their tailgate barbecue series. Their original location is hosting all day cookouts, one Sunday a month. June 23, July 14, August 18, and September 22 from 11am to 8pm. It is a ticketed event, so best to purchase them before hand to secure your plate. Although walks ins are accepted. With two down, there are only two more chances to try all their barbecue and sides. The meat platter is $27, and the vegetarian option $17. All tickets purchased online includes a complimentary drink voucher, where you save up to $6 for a cup.

Your bbq journey starts inside their cafe. Payment or ticket redemption gets you a paper plate. You take it down the counter to have it loaded with sides.

First comes their Jalapeño Corn Bread. Spicy meets sweet in this crumbly slice.

Next you have a choice of two sides between their “Carolina Coleslaw”, “Creamy Potato Salad”, “Classic Caesar Salad”, or “Farmers’ Market Field Greens”. I had the first two, my friend the Caesar and the potato salad. Each of the salads offered some freshness, and some greenery to help balance out all the density of the meat. I especially liked their potato salad. Thick chunks of potato coated in mayonnaise and flavoured with plenty of dill.

You head outside to where everything is prepared on their custom-built, 12-foot barbecue barrel grill. There, all your mains are kept warm, pre-made for easy dispensing. We enjoyed the meat lover’s option, a fulsome assembly of the below, guaranteed to have you leaving full.

The Tailgate Barbecue menu includes their 35-hour Texas-style Beef Brisket, Applewood-smoked Pork Shoulder, Beer-brined Maple Hill Farms Chicken, D’Original Sausage Haus Brats, and Corn on the Cob. You got a piece of each, though I am sure if you wanted to trade one for the other or make an edit they would obliged.

Everything was super tender, I especially enjoyed the dark meat piece of chicken. The brisket I got was a little fattier than I would have liked. The pulled pork shoulder was a little dry, but easily remedied with a generous scoop of their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. That sauce was even good on their half cob of corn.

And naturally, with all this salted meat you’d want an ice cold beverage. And you are in luck, “Strange Fellows Brewing” and “Good Company Lager” is partnering with “Railtown” this year and their beers are on top. If you want something a little more sweet, cocktails like their “Lynchburg Lemonade” and/or their “Railtown Ruby Sangria” are available. I opted for the former for a full summer feel. But regular lemonade is also available. And for those coming with the entire family, there is plenty of other non-alcoholic beverages like flavoured iced-teas and other soft drinks available as well.

Once fully loaded, you gather up your heavy plate and chilled plastic cup and pick where you park. A pop up seating area is set up right out front, taking a tiny slice of the street. Folding tables clothed in white and red gingham offered a picnic vibe. But for those who rather stay out of the sun, there is plenty of indoor seating in the restaurant itself. Similarly, if you are looking to round out your meal with a hot beverage or dessert. They offer plenty of coffee options, and fresh made savoury and sweet pastries behind glass.

For more information on the next bbq tailgate and how you can get your own tickets, check out the link below.

Railtown Tailgate Barbecues are BACK!

RAILTOWN CAFE
397 Railway Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1A4
604-428-0800
railtowncafe.ca

Smoke and Bones

It was our anniversary and having stayed up late the night before (binge watching “Sharp Objects”, so calm down), we rolled out of bed late, wanting barbecue meats. My partner decided on “Smoke and Bones” so that I could visit a new restaurant and have material to write about. We dove all the way to it and got cold feet at the threshold. Judging the building by its exterior, we paused to do some more research, before parking. It had an all black facade with neon red and yellow lights directing you to the “BBQ” within.

Our apprehension was in that we feared we would be walking into an empty restaurant. A building that smelled like an old casino, serving up week old, dry barbecue at higher prices. This was enough of a concern that we had to reassess our options. Would we try something new or get our meat fix at a competitor we have visited in the past, and know we will get a fully satisfying meal there? We went for the former, having tried so many different barbecue places before, and wanting to add another to our list of references.

And I was happy to do: passing through the now empty courtyard, fenced in; and walking into the first barbecue restaurant with a wall dedicated to their ribbons, plaques, and trophies. The wall of awards built up our confidence in the place and had us expecting more.

The restaurant was dressed like a ranch themed sports bar. Spotted cow hide was strung up on the wall and upholstered on a bench by the door, an ox skull hung on display by the bar, and a full bison bust was mounted just right under the skylight. With brick columns, metal stools, wooden tables, and leather booths; the place had a modern yet rustic feel to it. I liked the detailing of having each table branded with “S&B” on one of its corners.

We arrived just as happy hour started at 3pm. So I took advantage by ordering one of their $4 beers on tap. This was their “Smoke and Bones lager”, an easy to drink brew with the fluidity of water.

For food they had a great listing with two sliders for $6, a $6 serving of mac and cheese, and a $6 chilli cheese dog. But we instead splurged on their full barbecue platter, in order to get a bit of everything and see if the restaurant bears repeating. This way we won’t walk away disappointed in one thing, and thinking everything else might be better.

Their “Barbeque platter” feeds 2-3 people of $62, and it left us with leftover for days. BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and farmer sausage; served on a large metal baking tray. Intermingled with coleslaw, potato salad, their “Smoke and Bones” beans, BBQ sauce, and corn bread as sides. It certainly is one of the more photogenic bbq platters we have had the pleasure to feast upon, but sadly, not one of the better.

The smell we got a whiff of outside, we got to taste on our tongues here; the taste and difference their smoker made. But bite after bite we could tell this wasn’t a fresh assembly. All the meats were reheated with the sausage still chilly at its core. We visited during a slower time, so could only imagine how all this would have been had we gotten it fresh-made on the day.

The following are some notes on each individual items.

My partner was most excited to see that the bread that was included in this set, also came with butter. Where as at other places bread doesn’t automatically proceed with butter and we have to ask for some and wait while they do it.

The cornbread next to it was a nice sweet bite. A simple mini muffin with that tell-a-tale corn bread mealiness.

I liked the home made pickles, they too were great for in between bites. A sharp salty tang to cleanse and lighten all the heavy barbecue to come. In fact, all the sides were helpful in this regard. Some just much better than the others.

Like the fries. They were great, a crispy thin coating encasing a stick of potato mash. It didn’t match all that well with their sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, ketchup felt like a more natural fit.

The coleslaw was nice enough, I just wished it shredded pieces were consistently chopped, so that you aren’t chewing through or avoiding shards of lettuce.

I was intrigued with their use of cooked and caramelized apple in their bake beans. It had me liking the texture of the beans more, whereas I usually don’t like how grainy they are. The apple also gave the side much sweetness, as well as passing along some of its tart nature. This is hence forth new favourite way to have baked beans.

The potato salad had so much promise. Despite its hue, and the mix of extra firm potatoes, crunchy celery, and fragrant red pepper, in what looks like a chipotle mayo dressing; this was disappointing and bland. It had zero zest to it. The potatoes were on the raw side and the peppers could have used a char. If you are going to visit and order this or their potato salad, I would suggest paying $4 more to sub in their hot potato salad instead.

As for the meat, the ribs were very dry. With it and the other smoked meats to come, you could tell it was reheated. Remixed with just a fresh brushing of sauces to help rejuvenate the exterior texture.

The brisket was either dry and lean or dry and fatty. The pieces and the way they were prepared was uneven. A dunk in the sauce did wonders in giving it some flavour.

The pulled pork was slightly more tender and on average better tasting, but only if you didn’t have to bite down on a hard and fully blackened charred bit.

The chicken was my favourite of all the meats, it could have been juicer, but in comparison it was the freshest of all the others, making it noticeably better.

The farmer’s sausage held up the best, but was slightly chilled at its centre. It was a nice enough, plenty pieces of chewy spiced pork link; sliced up for easy one bite sharing.

 

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.
Sadly, it wasn’t as great as we imagined it, or as their slew of accolades suggested. Even as leftovers remade into sandwiches and wraps, I wasn’t all that excited to revisit the taste. Once again, I truly believe this is only because the meat wasn’t fresh. I would love to try a batch made the morning of, knowing the difference it would make. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

SMOKE AND BONES
999 Marine Drive, North Vancouver BC, V7P 1S4
604-770-1394
smokeandbones.ca

The Butcher and Bullock: Dine Out 2018

A Two Rivers Specialty Meats and Donnelly Group Collaboration.
As part of Dine Out Vancouver 2018, “Butcher at the Butcher” hosted a beer and meat fest like no other. They pride themselves on working with a number of local/BC suppliers in developing and curating their modern pub menus, so on this night, they chose to shine the spotlight on two of them. In partnership with “Two Rivers Meats” and “Postmark Brewing” they held a special dining event that combined locally-sourced meats and pairs them locally-brewed beers. For those who missed it, this is my recap of that great night.

I was invited to attend as media, so as always: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

This evening, the “Donnelly Group’s” culinary team prepared a number of meat-centric, locally-sourced dishes. There were three food stations, that served up a different meat dish and suggested which beer to pair it with. Along with canapés passed around for the duration of the evening. Tickets were only $69, which included taxes and service charges. With each ticket you got six food and four drink vouchers to be redeemed. You can basically visit each food station twice and try all but one of the beers offered from the bar. The canapés were all you can eat and there was plenty for everyone.

During our dinner, we got to meet Fraser, who is the owner of “Two Rivers”. He, like everyone else, was here enjoying the feast; and was highly interested to see how his product was being received. Given the smiles around the room and the piles of bones on each plate, it was safe to say that everyone was loving the food and enjoying themselves. We learned a little more about “Two Rivers”, from Fraser. We heard how they have been working with the “Donnelly Group” for five years now, supplying all burgers, custom sausages, and steaks to all of public houses. They do this with much care, with a focus on where the meat comes from and how it is treated and raised. And with their great quality produce they make everything from scratch, from their factory in Vancouver.

The following were dishes from the food stations, followed by all that was offered from off the travelling trays. Each station was set up with a server either slicing, scooping, or pouring for diners who redeemed a ticket. A sign marketed their feature and suggested which “Postmark” product was an ideal pairing for it.

I arrived first thing to be able to see everything set up and in its entirety. Like the whole slab of beef brisket that would be slowly sliced down to its end, as the night progressed. Here, you had your choice of enjoying the slow cooked beef, as is in all its glory, or as the feature in a brisket slider. This would be a spiced and braised, fatty piece of brisket served on a bun with your choice of condiments and vegetables. Like ketchup, Dijon mustard, shredded lettuce, and tomato.

What started as a slider became me simply taking the brisket out and eating the meat on its own. One, it was so much better as is, two with all the food to come I had to pace myself and not fill up on carb. After all this event guaranteed you didn’t leave feeling hungry.

The brined and fried chicken station was my favourite, and admittedly much better earlier on in the night then later. Then the pieces of chicken were large and juicy, with a thick coating of breading doubling its size. If the colonel had an older, refined bother, this would be how he prepared his chicken. However as the night progressed the pieces got smaller, the breading thinner, and the frying a little drier and darker. And this is reason why I always arrive to everything on time, if not early. The early bird gets the worm for a reason. The side of mini mac & cheese. Was pretty consistent. No exciting flavours, just a good sized serving to offer as a neutral base for the featured meat.

The “Sausage Plate” station allowed you to stylize your chosen sausage with a bevy of condiments. Grilled onions, sauerkraut, and four different flavoured mustards. This spoke to “Two River’s Meat” custom creating sausages for Donnelly in their long standing relationship with them. Unique links like tonight’s jalapeño cheddar and hot smoked turkey sausage. One ticket only got you half of one sausage, so I gave up two tickets to be able to try a half of each, and feast on a whole.

Each segment was sliced up and laid to rest on a bed of crispy French fries. Then over both a generous ladle of canapé spread showered them. From here you used tongs and spoons to pile on what you liked from the six bowls of condiments before you. The turkey sausage had a unique blend of spices, a little stiffer and more mild compared to the juicy jalapeño pork sausage I preferred with its zesty heat and squirting, salty, cheesy juices.

The rest of the meats flowed around the room, balanced on wooden boards, in the arms of servers. If you missed out on one round, you were sure to catch them and more on the second to tenth.

My favourite and the crowd’s favourite was the thick cuts of gooey and crispy “Candied Bacon”. Not much more to say then perfection, as the best cut and flavour I have had. In fact I wish I had a bowl of them before me as I am recalling this to write about it.

The “Crispy fried & glazed pork ribs” came as a close second. Also sticky with a little bit of sweet. These generously coated, tangy ribs fell right off the bone as you reached out for one.

The “Bresaola toasts with truffle & goat cheese” was a refreshing break from all heavier cuts. A thin slice of salted prosciutto that matched the saltiness of the truffle and a cheese. Although I would have liked a salsa or some greens just to brighten it up a bit.

The “Duck Wings” were actually duck drums. A few bites of drier meat well seasoned with a bit of heat and lots of honey from the sweet chilli sauce used. I just wished the used the same recipe on duck breast instead, after all that is where all the meat is.

The “Lamb Belly with cilantro & mint, yogurt and cucumber” was tender pulled strings of lamb, piled high on a crisp wonton. It was tender and crispy, with the yogurt and herbs giving the bite some tang and freshness. It was a great canapé to start on.

For drinks you were only given four tickets, and with five “Postmark Brewing” drink selections to choose from, you had to make your decision wisely. You got a taster for each, but if you choose your dining companions correctly you could pool tickets together and try more than the allotted four for all five. The options available are listed below.

Falconers IPA — 6%/52 IBU
• Hops- Falconer’s Flight
• Malt- Pale Ale, Maris Otter, Crystal, Aromatic
• Yeast – American Ale

Gose — 4.1%/8 IBU
• Hops-Perle
• Malt- Pilsner, Wheat
• Yeast- American Ale
• Other- Coriander, Orange Peel, Salt

Cider — 5.8%
• Cider Apples – Snow, Michelin
• Sweet Apples – Spartan, Golden Delicious

VUW Merlot Barrel-Aged French Saison — 6%/ 25 IBU
• Hops-Aramis
• Malt- French Pilsner, Wheat, Caramel Wheat, Aromatic, Caramel

Munich
• Yeast- French Saison
• Other- Aged in Merlot barrels for 6 months

 

So, if you are sad to have read that this came and went without you knowing about it, don’t miss out Donnelly’s next great Dine Out event: Foodie Trivia. This is also a ticketed event for one night only. Here they take a foodie spin on Donnelly Group’s already popular pub trivia nights. On February 1st at the Bimini Public House. Foodie Trivia is being developed and run by Nice Guys Trivia, the city’s best trivia hosts. Here, teams of up to six players will test themselves in a bowl of food, chef, and restaurant-themed questions. They will be competing for prizes and glory whilst enjoy a three-course dinner created by the “Donnelly Group’s” chef team Alvin Pillay, Sarah Stewart, and Chris Stewart. Each course will be accompanied by a paired cocktail and snacks will be served in between to make sure that no-one is competing on an empty stomach. Tickets are available for $75, which includes taxes and service charges, and are inclusive of the above mentioned food and drink.

Tickets are available and on sale at www.dineoutvancouver.com. And For more information about Donnelly Group pubs and cocktail bars, visit www.donnellygroup.ca.

 

BUTCHER & BULLOCK
911 West Pender Street, Vancouver BC, V6C 3B2
604-662-8866
donnellygroup.ca/the-butcher-bullock
The Butcher And Bullock Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

HK BBQ Master

This was one of the rare occasions I found myself in Richmond with some time to spare. So I decided to tag along to lunch with a few other food bloggers. When deciding on where to go, I mentioned wanting to try a hidden gem, something that you can only get in the city and that I will like be missing out on if I didn’t try. All those parameters led us to “HK BBQ Master”, for a very meat heavy meal.

This is actually one of the best restaurant in Richmond, according to tourism of Richmond, as they often suggest the restaurant and take out of towners here when on a guided tour. Although you wouldn’t think of it as such, given it locale. Located in the underground parking of Richmond’s superstore. Coming through the lot your nose leads the way, and your eyes are drawn in by the sheen from the golden brown skin of the whole poultry hanging in the window. Though it definitely isn’t easy to find, nor is its location one to attract walk-by traffic. This is the kind of place you have to know about to get here; not that they need the help advertising. Considering the line that constantly stretched out the door during the duration of our stay, they are doing just fine. Majority came in, only to take a box of their barbecue meats out. Whereas we decided to dine in and and enjoy our meat plates with rice and soup for sides.

According to my hosts, the restaurant has actually expanded since its original open. Their little shop has taken over their neighbour’s space to the left, allowing for additional seating in an already maximized dining room. Currently a brick wall separates the two.

One of my dining mates knew the owner and his son, so both came to our table to greet her and us. Here, I was able to ask a few questions for this post. Where upon, I could feel the pride the father had in his work, and saw the keen ability the son had to take over in his father’s footsteps.

The owner came from humble beginnings, his family was poor, so in order to earn some money, get an education, and keep him out of trouble as a kid, he got a job working at a restaurant at the early age of 14. There, he worked 12 hours days, with the occasional day off and two hours in between the morning and night shift to catch up on some sleep. It was here that he learned the traditional way to prepare barbecue duck, chicken, and pork. And the result was some of the best Chinese style barbecue I have ever had. I agreed with my friends, this was worth travelling all the way to Richmond for. Or if ever in Richmond, stopping by to grab a box to go. Even the owner himself swears by his quality, stating that there is no comparing his cooking with that of any other restaurant’s.

The “Roasted pork belly” was his signature dish. A favourite of all those who tried it and definitely the chef’s point of pride. He himself, takes an active role in cooking and running the restaurants day to day business, but he does also have a team of chefs to help him churn out his popular menu in mass quantities. Each chef knows only how to execute just one of his famous barbecue dishes, not one can prepare them all like he can.

The meat for this comes from a medium size pig. It is barbecued tender with a super crispy layer of skin. It is cut into slices with meat, fat, and skin visible in distinct, coloured layers. Each piece is on the fattier side with plenty of salt to give it flavour.

I really enjoyed how tender the “Soy sauce chicken” was. The chef recommended that we have each piece with their green onion, ginger, and oil mix as a dip. Their was plenty of flavour in its soy sauce soaked brown skin, but the dip offered a change of taste and some tang.

The “BBQ duck” was the perfect balance of fat and meat. It was sweet with a honey glaze finish and nice with crispy edges. I enjoyed this most dipped in their homemade plum sauce.

We were also given a tasting of their “Cold chicken”, (so note: if you get this yourself, it would not come like it is shown here). For those unfamiliar, don’t let let the yellow skin scare you off or the fact that it’s served chill. This was some of the smoothest chicken I have ever had, lightly salted and just as nice with the above mentioned green onion and ginger sauce mix.

The son was serving us and was quick to suggest and add on their “Winter melon soup with white fungus and shredded chicken” to our tab. I have had the soup before, so I can tell you with great certainty that this was a great rendition of it. It was a clean broth with light flavours. You sipped it without it leaving a film of oil on our lips. They were generous with how much meat each serving got. Although I am not a fan of water logged shredded chicken, so left the lot of it at the bottom of the bowl.

The father brought over their own plate of greens, as most Chinese meals are not complete without one. I don’t like the texture of leafy vegetables so passed on it for more steamed white rice instead.

 

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? – Yes.
Delicious food to satisfy those pesky meat cravings. Great Chinese style barbecue worth travelling to Richmond for. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

HK BBQ MASTER
4651 No 3 Road, Richmond BC V6X 2C4
604-272-6568
HK BBQ Master Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lamplighter Public House

Gastown chicken fight: BBQ wing competition

 

I was delighted to be asked to be one of the three judges for this year’s annual “Gastown Chicken Fight”. This is the sixth time that “The Lamplighter Pub” has invited wing lovers to their neighbourhood competition. A match up where teams compete to see who will “bask in the glory of being Gastown’s wing masters”. An afternoon with chicken topped trophies, $5 beer specials, and plenty of Jim Beam bourdon.

To skip the reading, visit my YouTube channel: MaggiMei. And watch my behind the scenes look at the competition, with a play by play of each wing and their creative competitors.

This afternoon, eight Gastown restaurants and pubs were pitted head to head with the goal of preparing the best wing. This was to be determined in terms of taste, originality, and presentation; as decided by the judges. The rules: each competing team was given 20lbs of wings the night before and a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon (6 year aged whiskey), to utilize in their preparation of it. The next day all teams arrived at “Lamplighter” with their wings already marinated and ready for their time on the grill. Competitors were given 30 minutes to set up and start cooking, out on the patio.

The smoke, sights, and smells attracted the attention of many on-lookers. Passer-byers who had to ask what was going on, especially given the amount of paparazzi photo taking and video recording that was going on, which included the likes of me. That is why I was surprised that this wasn’t a more popular event. And I can’t believe I am only hearing about it now. Had I known, I would have been here for the event, all six years prior; just like a handful of those in the audience today.

Each team was given their time across one of the three lengthy grills, at random draw. One by one they approached the barbecue and one by one they flipped, tossed, sauced and plated. When the wings were cooked and ready to go, they were served up in individual portions to us judges. With the rest heaped on high across metal serving trays, and then served piece-meal style to all those in attendance.

The final outcome of the completion would be based on the combined votes of the judges, with consideration given to the fan favourite. The latter was a decision made by casting your ballot (a white pebble) into the ballot box (a glass carafe) labeled with a restaurant’s name. The one with the most at the bottom would be the people’s champion.

Before we begin, just a warning: Between all the beers and shots I had, while trying to take photos and shoot videos, simultaneously carrying out my judging responsibilities; I did not capture all the footage I would have liked to, or even in a quality that was usable. Similarly, this post will not be in my typical thorough writing style, as I failed to take many notes. For once I lived more in the present, than trying to remember this day in the past.

But at the end of the day, it was a great event, and one I would love to attend again, hopefully returning as a judge, but if not, just to participate as an audience member would be nice.

The following wings are in the order in which their restaurant name was drawn and they were invited to cook and present.

First, representing the establishment we were currently in today was the “Lamplighter” wing. Inspired by chicken adobo, served with a cooling, tangy creamy dip.

Next was Mamie Taylor’s, who ended up wining third place for their Caroline style mustard wings with Kentucky bourbon, and pork floss topping. It looked cheesy, but tasted zesty.

The kitchen staff from the “Blarney Stone” took a more classic approach with their French cured wing in an orange Demi-glaze.

And last year’s champions “Bao Down” were back to defend their title with their Hong Kong style chicken jerky. Apparently within this competition they are known for their unique interpretation of the challenge. Here they removed the wing component completely, serving their chicken as jerky in a lettuce wrap topped with a Filipino style sauce and a pickled pineapple slaw.

The team from the “Metropole” pub were quick to finish their saucy wing coated in a sprinkling of crushed ketchup chips. They also added flair to the judge’s table by pulling out bottles of Smirnoff Ices from their pants and cracking them open for us to enjoy. We all appreciated a good bribe.

First place unanimously went to “Clough club”, six years competing and they finally won their first trophy, and first place to boot. Theirs was a pickled back wing that tasted like dill pickle chips. An unexpected twist accompanied by fried kale.

New to the Gastown area, and attending their first “Chicken Fight”, was “Crab Park”. Although, most notable for their seafood, they took this poultry challenge and made it their own. They prepared a salted caramel wing which held up. It didn’t necessarily pair well with the salty chowder. But when presented with a hot serving of chunky and creamy chowder in an edible bowl, we were happy.

And last, but not least was barbecue house, “Pekinpah”. They played off their strength and made a smokey wing. Cream soda braised bourbon wings, topped with a pickled jalapeño and peach salsa.

 

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? – Yes.
What a fun way to dine: a dinner and an interactive show. I definitely recommend keeping an eye out for this one and joining the “Lamplighter” crew for year seven in 2018. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

LAMPLIGHTER
92 Water Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1B2
604-687-4424
donnellygroup.ca/the-lamplighter
The Lamplighter Public House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yook Korean Grilled BBQ & Bistro

I have been attending large scale media events lately, so today it was nice to be able to sit down with three other tell-it-like-it-is food bloggers to enjoy some Korean cuisine and conversation. I was invited by Sherman of “Sherman Food Adventures” to join “Grace Cheung 604“; Amy, ” The Food Queen“; and himself for the soft open of “Yook” on Nanaimo. This would be the only Korean representation in the highly trafficked area.

Getting to it was easy enough, and pin pointing the building on the drive to was even more effortless. They advertised with a large corner sign, and stood out with their all black exterior and newer finish, on a street lined by older buildings. And parking was a breeze with plenty of street side and back alley spots available.

Inside, the restaurant had a very modern look. All new decor and furniture from that of the Vietnamese restaurant that existed in the space once before. The setting was simple and clean with black chairs and white tables, a mirrored wall on one side and tiled panels on the other for decoration. There was no look into the restaurant, nor did you have the ability to enjoy the light from outside streaming in. You couldn’t see much through the black blinders, but they added enough mystique to have those passing by, popping in to see what this new addition to the area entailed.

Planters partitioned with real calla lilies, creating some cover and privacy between rows of longer tables. Each setting was equipped with a buzzer for the calling of staff. This was especially useful if you needed some help during a busier service, and it proved difficult to track down a server; as was the case a few times during our stay.

There were no table-side coils or ventilation fans above for the self grilling of marinated meats at each table. Something I assumed would be included when reading their subtitle: “Grilled BBQ & Bistro” on the restaurant’s door and on each of their menus. All the barbecuing would be done at the back of the kitchen, and then served to order.

The modern aesthetic of the place was furthered by top 40 pop songs in Korean and English playing overhead. It went from the bubble gum girl bands of k-pop to Beyoncé in a smooth transition. It also made the place feel more like a lounge, or an after dinner spot, instead of a restaurant where we would be able to enjoy a traditional Korean style meal. More a place for Chinese style desserts, bubble tea, or even tapas style small plates for snacking and sharing. We would later learn that we would be right in our first blush impressions.

As for the service itself, everything felt precise and exact. From the way the black stone dishes and metal chopsticks were laid out strategically before us, to how the server poured the tea into each metal cups and placed the pot gingerly at the end of the table for self serving after. There was even a perfectly polished, yet casual air to the general manager that received us. I liked how she and her staff made us feel in this comfortable and inviting space.

We asked for the general manager’s recommendations, but ultimately pooled our collective food blogger experience, to select a few dishes to give us a better understanding of what they offer. This would prove to be a wrong decision.

It is worth nothing that during our visit, it was only their second day that they were open to the public. And that they planned their grand opening to be on the day after. This is a rarity. Where most restaurants rather give themselves a month or two before entertaining any plans to advertise to the public and/or host media to review. As a new business you want to work out the kinks of the kitchen, service, and cuisine fully and you need time and experience to do this. Whereas the service was well run and the food came out in a timely manner, what we were served lacked excitement. Some more time collecting feedback and applying it would have helped in presenting a much more memorable meal today. None-the-less, let’s begin.

When it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.

The “Bossom” came highly recommend to us. This is tender boiled pork wrapped in radish kimchi. Despite what the menu advertised, the meat and kimchi were presented separately. And without instructions when serving, we assumed we were to take the grey pieces of pork and wrap them with the thinly sliced rounds of pickled vegetable, and enjoy them with the other spicy pickles vegetable. It was just okay this way, but I much rather prefer each element eaten alone with one riding the flavour coat tails of the last. The colour of the boiled pork wasn’t the most appealing. It was salty and fatty, relying on the sauce dish provided in conjunction for flavour, and pickle on the side for freshness and the missing zing. All in all this was cold pickles and room temperature meat.

Theirs’ was a unique interpretation of Bibimbap, a popular Korean mixed rice dish. They had their rice and its toppings served separately, in separate containers; and no egg to pull it all together. “Gochujang samgyup bibimbap” with Gochujang marinated pork belly. The dish was bland with flavourless crisp vegetables and dry crumbles of meat. There was no way I could tell pork belly was used in this. Disappointing as I love a good rice dish.

At least I got some of the carb-y rich chew I wanted from the “Dduck mandu gook”. This was rice cake and dumplings in beef bone soup. The former two offered a nice chewy texture in the thicker murky broth. Although stuffed full, I wasn’t a fan of the taste of the overpowering herbs used in the dumpling’s filling. But, at least it offered more flavour where the soup they sat in fell short. I would have liked a brown salty and sweet sauce to dip everything in to, to treat the ingredients more like a hot pot.

Similarly, the “Ddook baegi haemul soondube jjigae” lacked depth of flavour. This soft tofu in seafood stew had the colour of spice, but its chillies only when surface deep to give you a tingle of spice. Each bite starts off and ends the same; one boring, tangy taste through out. And the chopped jalapeños added nothing to help.

The tables’ favourite was the only grilled dish we ordered. It came sizzling on a cast iron plate. The “LA Galbi” were thin cut ribs in a sweet soy. The meat was served in large bone it strips, and we were given cooking shears to cut them down to size ourselves. Points for presentation and making an entrance. In hindsight, considering the word “grill” is featured in their title, we might have been better off following the manager’s suggestion and only ordering the pork and beef off their “off the grill” section of the menu. It seems like their specialty. And everything above fell short.

And despite this being the best dish of our meal, I am still not without critique of it. I had three pieces, and each was dry and hard to pry meat from bone. Whereas the others found cuts that were more tender. And when I tried one that “looked tender”, it proved to be just flaps of fat in my mouth. So I gave up. The sauce at least tasted good, although I wanted more flavour and seasoning from it too.

With all of this we were also given a bevy of traditional Korean spicy, cold, and pickled sides. However I didn’t have much of any, and was told the kimchi, wasn’t all that exciting. Just as well, as I am not a fan of stewed cabbage any way. I was told by my co-diners that it was all pretty average.

After trying everything, I didn’t know what to go back for. I wasn’t excited for seconds. Sadly, nothing felt like it was worth revisiting, there was nothing I wanted more of. I struggled yet found myself still picking because there was still food in front of me. In short, I liked the newness of the space more than the food within it.

 

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.
As is, I cannot see myself returning. Not the worst, but below average. What we assumed would be traditional Korean style meal might actually be a listing of fusion Korean, given the way everything tasted. Softer approaches and milder flavours for those unfamiliar with Korean spices and its bold flavours. They certainly would make a great safe space for first timers to the cuisine, or those with particular palettes. Yet their menu didn’t cater to this, or speak to this experience. It was all written, each option came with its Korean names and a brief description in English. There weren’t high resolution photos to help a novice navigate the ordering terrain. Overall, have some work to do to align themselves and set up their business. The space would do better as a after dinner spot in my opinion, some thing the area also lacks. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

YOOK
2408 Nanaimo St, Vancouver, BC V5N 5E4
604-428-9292
yookkoreanbbq.com
Yook Korean Grilled BBQ & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Dixie’s BBQ

My partner is a fan of a good barbecue. We have been to a few all around the Lower Mainland, so today we were giving “Dixie’s” on Hastings a try. They are known for their Texas style barbecue and show their allegiance through the restaurant’s decor. It has a well themed rugged look with a worn wood pallet ceiling, a wagon wheel chandelier, and red brick and sheet metal walls.

I liked the rusted cinema style light boxes, repurposed into signs on the left hand wall. The pair welcomed you in and advertised their availability of brisket, ribs, links, and smoked pork; with its shattered light bulbs.

And I found their use of an old pick-up truck clever. It jutted out of the front left wall. Not only for propping, but its tail gate could be dropped and the stools taken down from its trunk to create four additional bar-style seats.

Behind the bar, a pair of longhorns crowned the flat screen television broadcasting a blue jays baseball game. It was mounted within a refurbished glass door cabinet, which certainly added to the country homey look of the place. With it were two additional cabinets on either side. Its shelves were used to carry all their whiskeys. And the space under them, held all the glasses needed to pour yourself a stiff drink.

The bar continued to draw your attention, with an angle iron suspending thick chains and light bulbs within mason jars. Both hanging above the stools that lined it. Their was an old timey register for show, it matched the antique revolvers hanging behind the bar on display.

We originally started off seated at one of their high tops, but was quick to trade up given how uncomfortable the stools were. They were hard and flat with jagged edges. And the table in front of it much taller. I felt I was too short to be able to satisfactorily reach the food that would be presented before me. Luckily we were able to move to a larger picnic table by the window, this was the most effective seating arrangement for us. One large enough for us to be able share our meal below.

Each table was well equipped with your own paper towel roll for the hand held adventure before you. Pails of cutlery and a caddy of sauces were available to take and use as needed. On the table was also a listed explanation of the different American styles of barbecue, and where to find them locally. I found this a great lesson to learn off of a table sign.

Central Texas BBQ emphasized on the meat, where the sauces and side are secondary. It is always served with white bread and pickles to help cut in to the grease and balance the plate with some acidity. This is what we would be having at “Dixie’s” today. Memphis style barbecue is big on pork including pork ribs and pulled pork. Both use a dry rub, before a thorough cook in a big pit. Locally you can get this from “Memphis blues”. North Carolina style BBQ also specializes in pork. They brush theirs with a spice and vinegar mixture while cooking, and then serve it with a ketchup based sauce. This is represented in the city by “Pekinpah”. Kansas City style uses all kinds of meat and they are all cooked super slow and super low, preferably over hickory wood. The sauce is most commonly a thick, sweet molasses and tomato mix that sticks. In Vancouver you can get this from “Hog Shack”.

When dishes were ready, one of the chefs came out from the back to help serve them. He came out gleefully in its torn and worn tan apron, thick beard, and baritone voice. If I were to personify a good barbecue, he is what I would describe. He hand delivered metal trays two by two and gave additional information on all of the meats as he set them down.

To get the best assessment of the place we ordered the “The Bubba”, which offered up a little bit of everything. This is a family style dinner meant to be shared at $35.00 per person. It included a tasting of all their smoked meats: brisket, pork ribs, hot links sausage and pulled pork. It also had a healthy serving of their corn meal fried chicken, best enjoyed with their country gravy and your choice of one side per person. We went for the mac n cheese and cornbread over the possibility of smoked brisket beans, tots, serrano cheese spinach, meat chilli, biscuit, coleslaw or potato salad. The menu and our server warned us about the portion size and the need to be hungry to fully enjoy it all. Although we find comfort in having leftovers and the ability to pick at it for days to come.

It was recommend that we start on the beef brisket first, as the fat on it will congeal the longer we leave it. It was prepared 8:30am, first thing in the morning, and you could tell this was the case by the quality of the meat in your mouth. It was tender and juicy, however lacked flavour for me. It had us reaching for a sauce, but only the hot variety or ketchup was available at our table. And the country gravy that came with the platter already had chunks of meat in it. Besides it was best paired with the fried chicken instead.

The fried chicken was my favourite, it was deboned for eating ease and breaded crispy in their corn meal batter. The meat underneath this thick layer of crunch was some of the juiciest I have had. But as good as this was, it was only good eaten right away. The breading didn’t keep its wonderful crunch the day after.

Once again, I liked the pairing of it with the county gravy. The gravy was thick and creamy like congee, adding a different textural element to the chicken, as well flavour. Althohgh I could have done without the chunks of ground beef embedded within it. It was tasty, but not necessarily. It was already a flavourful gravy as is, and its texture without ground beef would have been better to highlight everything else around it.

We found that the pulled pork also lacked flavour, and once again we were without a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce to perk things up with. But like the brisket the meat was just so well done that you continued to eat.

The only smoked meat we found enjoyable presented to us as is was the whole rack of ribs. It was marinaded in Dr. Pepper soft drink for that extra syrupy sweet flavour. The meat fell off the bone, or was at least easy to pry from bone.

Amendment, the spicy sausage cut up into chunks, was the most flavourful of the smoked meats. It had plenty of herbs and lots of fire for flavour. This too was enjoyable dipped into the country gravy to balance out all that spice.

The corn bread was a little dry and I could have done without the chopped up jalapeños in it. And instead I would have preferred it with more sweet sponge to help break the meal up. Something different to rejuvenate the plate, helping to change all the overwhelming meaty textures and flavours.

The macaroni was more successful in offering us this much needed break. However, alone it was bland, just a thin coating of cheese over starchy pasta spirals.

When it came time to leave, our bill was rolled up and presented in a large calibre bullet casing, it was a nifty touch. And I knew I couldn’t walk out without first visiting their washroom. Based on how well themed the dining area was, I wanted to see if things were consistent all the way through to the washrooms.

The hallway leading to the facilities were marked by a handsome set of antlers and a couple of swinging saloon doors. The corridor on route to the stalls were painted with the Texas flag and a few photographs to mark the city. Inside, each stall had its walls papered with faded posters of country singers and black and white photographs of cowboys and Indians. Kenny Rogers with a mike and Dolly Parton in her teens. It also had its own juke box, but I couldn’t be sure the country ballads playing were coming from it. The sink was a repurposed oil drum, the flowers sat in a recycled milk can, and the soap dispenser was once a mason jar.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was both our first time trying this style of barbecue, so we couldn’t help but to compare it to what we liked from our favourite: Memphis style barbecue with its sauces and fries. Both of which we were left craving for. Not that there is anything wrong with this style, it is just not our preferred type of barbecue. However I would still recommend them, and wouldn’t be apposed to returning for more chicken and sauces, or maybe to try one of their burgers instead. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

DIXIE’S
337 East Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6A 1P3.
778-379-4770
meatatdixies.com
Dixie's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montana’s, Rib Fest

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My partner wanted ribs and after a few disappointing dinners out for some, we finally went to “Montanan’s to guarantee him his fix. Walking up to the place he complained how hungry he was and how he could smell the scent of the meat he wanted to eat. But it was busy this Saturday night that we would not get to eat any of it anytime soon. We didn’t think of making reservations, so when we came at 7pm we found ourselves having to waiting until 8pm to be seated. Although they were able to take our names and our number to call us when our table was ready.

The restaurant was as I remembered it the handful of times I was ever in the area and wanted something cheap and meaty. A cabin motif, perfectly reflecting the rugged outdoor Canadian lifestyle. Wood logs, hockey jerseys, canoes and paddles, and antlers crafted to form a chandelier.

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In the end our wait earned us a great booth table towards the back. Here, tables were pre-set with parchment paper and a glass of crayons for those with children and the need to keep them occupied. Kids that wanted to could draw, my partner was one such kid. Though, sadly we discovered that the crayons available for use were sitting in a shot glass of tobacco sauce. Imagine a child holding on to one of these crayons, then realizing it is wet, instinctively going to lick their hands dry, only to discover an awful burn in their mouths. We brought it to the attention of our server.

He eventually found a green crayon on the floor and went to work. This kept him busy as we waited longer than usual for our food. Given the busy service and the popular time and day, I could have expected as much. Our server was late to take our food order as she was expected to be one of three staff members needed to sing the birthday song (more on that below). And when we finally had our order taken, it took over 45 minutes for it to actually arrive.

But despite the rush and stress our server and majority of the others within ear shot held their composure and remained friendly. They were identified by their casual dress code. Their jeans and flannel look matched the country vibe of the restaurant well. Our server’s energetic disposition was contagious. Everything was a positive yes. I could see why there were so many large groups celebrating birthdays here tonight. It was fun and causal.

For each birthday person, the staff rung musical triangles and called attention to them and their table. First comes an announcement, followed by the singing of their own rendition of happy birthday, or rather a birthday chant. And to make this even more in to a spectacle the birthday boy or girl gets to wear a helmet of stuffed antlers on their head.

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When it came time to order, we were excited to learn that their “rib fest” was back. It advertised mouth watering, sauced up, and fall off the bone ribs. They featured three options with sides. But my partner went with the classic 6 rib in their “Rib n’ wing combo”. It gave you a choice of sauce for their famous ribs, and on their four double dusted chicken wings. He went with the honey garlic over his ribs and the chipotle honey for the wings. For sides it was the Mexican corn, fries, and in house baked corn bread.

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The ribs were tender, but we missed the traditional BBQ sauce flavouring. The honey garlic he had instead lacked kick. The chipotle honey gave the wings more flavour, but wasn’t necessarily complimentary to its thick breading. It would have been better left as a dry rub seasoned with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper. The sides were pretty standard, chewy fries and a cup of corn that tasted like salsa with the coloured peppers.

I was looking for something a little lighter and gravitated towards the “chicken waffle club sandwich”. Southern fried chicken breast with maple sriracha, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and two strips of double smoked bacon. All between two flame grilled Belgian sugar waffles.

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This was a saucy burger that made a mess. Therefore the more I allowed it to sit, the more the soggy the bottom waffle got. It’s run off pooled at the bottom of the skillet it was served in. It also turned a portion of the side potatoes to mush. But worst off was the lettuce in the sandwich that was quick to follow, aided by the mayo and saucy. Sandwich crafting 101, you don’t put mayo and lettuce together. As for the flavour, this was one of the best seasoned chicken breast in waffles I have had. The crispy chicken with saucy spreads and chilli spice, between sweet waffle really gave the sandwich its own identity. As my partner’s first taste of chicken and waffles, he liked what he had here, especially the mix of textures.

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For the side I upgraded my choice of fries or one of two salads for their “ultimate appy”. The in “house seasoned Montana’s Chippers”. The regular entree version is seasoned with savoury dill and served with their in house made honey dill dip. This was just salted. The chips where perfectly crispy, offering a great side, better than fried.

As I mentioned earlier, between our two hands on either entrees we made quite the mess. We went through a mound of napkins and had to ask for more. Therefore were grateful to been provided wet wipes at the beginning so that we could do a quick clean up before switching from two hands to picking off the mess with fork and knife.

 

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.
It definitely satisfies the craving for classic eats at great prices. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTANA’S
2929 Barnet Hwy, Unit 1046, Coquitlam BC, V3B 5R5
604-472-7772
montanas.ca
Montana's Cookhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Montana’s

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How do you follow shooting pistols, revolvers, and atomic rifles at a gun range? With plenty of meat for cheap, cause ammo isn’t. And when I think hearty eats for less I think Montana’s, which also happens to be conveniently located in Coquitlam, a couple of kilometres away from the range.

It was dressed like a wood cabin and its decor did everything it could to have you concluding this was the place you wanted to be for hunks of meat and whole potatoes as sides. Fresh game procured from their morning’s hunt maybe? They were painting an illusion and I was easily buying into it.

Walking up to the building, it looked like a cowboy saloon with a pebbled stone exterior. Inside, the room was rampant with wood detailing and furnishings. Wooden floors, wooden arch ways, wood trunks leading to the ceiling’s wooden support beams, and glossy wood tables and chairs. There was even a wooden chandelier crafted to look like the points of antlers. It, like the other decorations added interest to the walls and rafters in a rugged in theme. Snow shoes and skis side stepping on the wall, imitation pine foliage and little trees lining the ceilings. And they even managed to hoist a red truck over tables to create an archway.

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Within the foyer, by the hostess booth was a wooden curio cabinet, housing their various barbecue sauces in bottles and jars for you to take home. They had over five different flavours, so you were bound to find one that you liked. And at the actual booth, they had kids colouring sheets and cardboard crowns for patrons. Female and male deer antlers to wear. I was not ashamed to admit that I helped myself to one of each and they kept us entertained as we waited for the food to come. A wait that took longer than expected, considering it wasn’t all that busy around 2pm.

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We were directed to the lounge area with its wooden bar, because he didn’t have reservations. Though looking around, they had plenty of seating options across three separate sections. Like the dining area that included a stone fireplace. But we instead sat on high tops surrounded by Canadian hockey jerseys out stretched and pinned at the shoulders. The Jets, Leaf, Montreal Canadiens, and the Canucks were well represented. A Blackhawks jersey made an appearance, but that seemed out of place.

The menu was very user friendly. Plenty of glossy steak and rib photos to order by sight.

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The “Rib n’ sausage combo” was their famous ribs served with your choice of BBQ sauce, and a fire grilled chorizo sausage with their bold deli mustard for dipping. This was the full rack of ribs that came with six bones. Although if this was not enough meat, they also had a size up, that was the jumbo version. The ribs were a messy, but delicious affair. Best enjoyed with hands, wet wipes and a bucket to discard bones were provided. The platter was served on slate plate with options for sides. My guest skipped the southern baked beans and corn for coleslaw, and made fries his choice of side with the baked cornbread.

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The “Firecracker sirloin” was a top sirloin fire-grilled to perfection. It was topped with plenty of bacon, crispy jalapeños, spicy dusted onions, and a chipotle honey BBQ sauce. The steak was perfectly cooked; and with all it toppings, each bite was different and kept interest. It came with the same side choices as the ribs above. Here, my other guest choose the baked potato and coleslaw to accompany the crispy Cajun onions that also topped the steak. Although the onions would have been nicer and stayed crispier for longer, alone on the side. The potato was the most disappointing thing on the plate. It was plain despite all its dressing.

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Looking for a smaller portion their “hand carved 7oz petite filet steak, lightly smoked” caught my eye. That and its side of waffle fries, waffle fries are the best kind of fries. And these were the best part of the plate. The crispy potatoes were perfectly fried and breaded with corn meal for that extra crunch. Although I wish there was a better ratio between it and the steak. There was double the amount of potato to meat, if not triple. It was also odd to pull a carving knife from the plate. Its presence unusual considering the meat was already cut up into manageable pieces for you. As for the meat itself, it was tough and dry at the ends and sides. Only one slice in the centre had the texture of medium rare right. The meat was also pretty bland, some additional seasonings or a side of sauce would have easily helped. And while I am asking for things, a fresh component would have been nice to cut through all the heavy starch. Maybe an oven roasted tomato or a side of sweet corn salsa, something to balance the plate. I ended up using ketchup with the potatoes and the meat. Overall, this was a good snack size portion of food at a good price.

Being within a mall means there is plenty of parking and much to look at, after you finish your meal. And we did just that, skipping desserts here for a change of scenery. Especially needed after how long we sat, past paying off our bill, and after our server repeatedly asking us if we needed more water or anything else.

Our server had a way about her. She was saying things that may normally offend you, but because she spoke with a southern charm and an air of comforting self deprecating humour, you engaged in her. Though I still found her a little brash, too lax with her “huns” and “darlings”, too comfortable as she leaned on our table to speak, and too passive aggressive in her hints for us to leave. We eventually took her not so hidden messaging and vacated. In hindsight, I can see her appeal in the setting, a country draw that definitely added character to the place, like a attraction you would come back for.

 

Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Classic eats for great prices. Not my first choice, but one that meets the criteria when I am looking for a guaranteed good meal with plenty of fixings for under $20. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

MONTANA’S
2929 Barnet Hwy, Unit 1046, Coquitlam BC, V3B 5R5
604-472-7772
montanas.ca
Montana's Cookhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Claypot Hotpot and B.B.Q.

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Hotpot, barbecue, and steamer all in one kitchen gadget!

 

I like food, I eat when I am happy, I eat when I am sad, I eat when I am bored, and I eat to say I have eaten it. Today I wanted to eat my feelings and my guest suggested hot pot. Hot pot is one of those comforting meals where you cook the food at your table. The process of eating as you cook gives you plenty of time to talk. The goal is to eat all that you can and claim your money’s worth.

This particular hot pot restaurant has long been on my list, so when the stars aligned and we found ourselves here. I opted for an earlier dinner time to allow us the opportunity to digest after such a heavy meal, before bed.

They are known for all you can eat hot pot on one of the most unique contraptions built for dinner theatre. This was a hotpot boiling pot, barbecue grill, and steamer all in one. Three tiers for you to cook your meat and vegetables on. The ability to boil a wonton in soup, grill it like a gyoza, or steam it like a dumpling, right before your very hands. Each method was not only delicious, but it allowed you variety, and offered you a way to rejuvenate a would be one-toned taste.

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The room was cold, the kind of cold that had you folding your arms to keep warm. But it would soon quickly warm with the heat of several flames bringing several pots to boil. Each table had a burner built into it, ours was already on and flickered when we sat down. A little dangerous considering that first part of the dinner involves checking off a flammable piece of paper, doing so by passing it back and forth over this flame.

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The menu is two pages front and back. One dedicated to the traditional hot pot fare with pre-cooked sides, sauces, and drinks. Another with thicker cuts of meat, ideally for the barbecue platform. However you can put anything anywhere at your discretion. With pencil you go over each option checking off what you wanted and listing how many pieces you believed you could eat.

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You begin by choosing your broth. As is often the case, there is a separate cost for the soup. You have to have soup to have hot pot, so it is disappointing to have to pay the separate charge for it. $9 was the standard price, with $18 being on the higher end. “Silky chicken with ginseng”, “winter melon and chicken feet”, “parsley and preserved egg”, and “preserved vegetable and pork belly” were the most adventurous of all 13 options.

We went with the ability to have two $9 soup bases for $13. Our pot would be divided, on top of having the additional layers protruding from its centre. If you didn’t plan to barbecue you could request the regular hot pot vessel, just the cauldron.

The “Thai Tom Yam Kung” soup based was a red-ish Orange brew with a nice warming spice. The “Peppered pork stomach” is one I wouldn’t recommend. The broth was littered with peppercorn pearls and each bite into one unleashed the full force of spicy pepper. And the rubbery stomach meat was no better.

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The second tier was for barbecue grilling. It is interesting to note that you lay the raw meat or seafood directly on to the thin piece of white paper, protecting said grill. This layer shields it from the burning of grease, and doesn’t affective the cooking process or the finished product.

The top layer was a steamer basket with lid. As the hot air from the cooking below rises, it steams everything at the top of the tower.

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As for ingredients that went into the boiling broth? This was one of the most comprehensive lists I have ever had the pleasure to scan though and choose off of. Everything was available to order piece by piece, in a set of four, or by the bundle or plate. It was hard to decide and commit to six pieces of pork skin or four pieces of black fungus. I preferred the guess work out of my hands, and to be able to order by a set or by the plate. A plate of beansprouts or a medley of mushrooms. Bring me what you think I could finishing. Especially as we weren’t able to eat all that we ordered and we only ordered one round. I think this is one of the only places that actually gives you everything that you check off. They don’t hold you back, or use their best judgment and experience to restrain you from over ordering, and ultimately wasting food. This was the one time I wished we didn’t get what we asked for at a restaurant. More than five plates were left uncooked and much more sat over cooked, hidden at the bottom of the split pot.

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Seafood like fish fillet and salmon heads, various squid parts, octopus, and mussels. Oysters were available too, but the menu was specific to say only two each. We were initially upset by the restriction. This was all you can eat but with a limit, it defeats the purpose. Though either of us liked how the cooked oyster came out. We avoided the shrimp in shell because peeling it was tedious. Although it was easier to peel after a quick grill and was delicious because of it.

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They had six different dumplings choice available, but the minced fish one were crossed off. You couldn’t really tell the dumplings apart, they were cooked in the same broth and dipped in the same sauce, so they essentially tasted the same. Although their different shapes and various dough wrappings were visual appealing. Pork and chives, pork and fungus, pork and vegetable, fish, and wonton.

The “meat” choices were sheered thin or rolled into curls. Sliced rib eye, short rib, pork belly, regular pork, and lamb shoulder. They also had meat by the bone or in cubes. Chicken wings and luncheon meat. And for the more adventurous they offered beef tripe, stomach, and tendon. They had pork jowl, stomach, liver, bung, and even cooked pork blood cubes. We avoided all of this, as I was not daring enough to try any of it. Such ingredients are so strong that they often change the flavour of the soup and therefore everything cooked in it. My guest was of the same mind set.

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The vegetables were more appealing. With six variations of tofu and bean curds. Five different types of leafy greens washed and served on a plate. And taro, lotus root, turnip, and pumpkin, just to name a few.

My hot pot favourite has always been the balls. Minced and mashed meats formed into round balls. They had eleven options including all the basic proteins and more exotic ones like cuttlefish and dace fish. Imitation crab meat fell under this category as well.

They also had a bevy of noodles to boil and eat it all with. Udon, vermicelli, bean thread noodle, glass noodle, instant noodle, and the noodle in wonton soup. I like the chew of such carbs and especially the slices of rice cake and the tubes of gluten. However, I advise not filling up on it, as it is the cheap stuff. And in order to get more bang for your buck, you want to gorge on everything else, specially the proteins.

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If you run out of sauce you could always order more. I find the meal is nothing without a strong salty mix to dip meat into and/or to drench noodles with. We started off with soy and satay sauce, and had plenty of it to go finish our meal with. But if we ran out or wanted a different flavour profile, all the varieties were priced at a $1 more. Hot chilli pepper, chopped garlic, shredded ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, or persevered egg.

And if you are too lazy to cook, they actually offered pre-cooked appetizers and entrees. Seaweed and pork ear salads, rice with chicken, and deep fried rice cake.

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Each table included a metal rack with three shelves. This was so that there was enough room for everything you ordered, and that you were given enough elbow space in which to eat it all.

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Overall, I can’t really comment on the food. We were the ones cooking it. And seeing as we were busy talking instead of concentrating; all the meat came out burnt, the seafood was fished out overcooked, and the dumplings stuck on to the grill in a melted mounds. Although with the use of the soy and satay sauce it all came out tasty. Once again I left another hot pot meal
too full and without tasting the finished broth/end product. The soup ends up tasting like what you put into it throughout the cooking process, which ends up being nothing like its original brew.

The meal was to end up in a bite of tofu for dessert, but we were too past full to indulge.

There were plenty of staff to tend to each table. Almost one person per seating looking out for you. Each raise of your hand or a look in their direction had them approaching you. They weren’t ready on the tea refill, but were quick to jump as soon as I called. Although at the same time I felt judged by some of my requests. There was no communication from them to say they understood, but instead a contorting of the face to question my request. I wanted a plate to store the excess food being over cooked in soup. I got one bowl. I wanted more napkins to clean my hand, I got just a one.

 

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.
The drive to was a little out there for me, but very much so worth the effort. A unique experience with a large array for food at a good price. All you can eat enoki mushrooms and quail eggs where other places charged an extra dollar or two for either. The point of this visit was to enjoy the special pot, and it delivered, giving us a unique dining experience. Overall for the cost and the value, I have no regrets. Don’t deny your cravings.

 

CLAYPOT
105-8291 Alexandra Road, Richmond BC, V6X 1C3
604-284-5181
Claypot Hotpot and B.B.Q. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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